Legacy Member Profiles

Andy McGaan: Honoring Pam, Celebrating Music
Ruth L. Nelson: Living Out Her Legacy

Andy McGaan:
Honoring Pam, Celebrating Music

On any given Friday at noon, more than 150 people come through the doors of Fourth Church to hear some beautiful music during their lunch hour.

Whether it is an organ concert in the Sanctuary, a cellist’s performance in Buchanan Chapel or summer Music by the Fountain in the Michigan Avenue courtyard, people come away from these free concerts inspired, refreshed, and with a song on their hearts.

Music plays a very important role at Fourth Church. Many members have expressed appreciation for contribution of the organ and choir music to the Sunday worship experience, and many Fourth Church members, past and present, are musicians themselves.

Pamela McGaan was one of those members with a lifelong experience with music. She was a lifelong pianist who had studied classical and jazz vocals, including at the Eastman School in Rochester, New York, and at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music.

In her college years, Pam directed the women’s a cappella singing group and, in later years, sang at the the Green Mill in Uptown and the Wire in Berwyn. She also recorded a CD of jazz standards under the musical direction of Chicago jazz vocalist Typhanie Monique and, at the time of her death, was working with Mr. Blotto’s Paul Bolger on a CD of American folk and roots songs.

Pam was also very active in the Sunday School program and church leadership.

After her untimely death in 2016, the McGaan family provided a generous gift to help ensure that Fourth Church’s Noonday Concert Series would continue on well into the future.

“Music was a major part of Pam’s life, and she reveled in the beauty of Fourth Church’s choir,” says Andy McGaan, Fourth Church Clerk of Session and Pamela’s husband.

“When she was a college sophomore, I tagged along as her group gave a series of performances across campus. At one, she broke into a deeply moving R&B rendition of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’ and a friend turned to me in astonishment to ask, ‘Is she religious?’ Well, she was! I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to her than supporting music at Fourth Church.”

Memorial gifts like these are a great way to honor someone who was influential in your life or to support your passions and values well into the future.

Ruth L. Nelson: Living Out Her Legacy

Ruth Nelson has seen a lot of changes in her ninety-plus years. She was first involved with Fourth Church from 1954 until 1978 under the pastoral leadership of both Harrison Ray Anderson and Elam Davies.

Even though her parents wanted her to go to Northwestern, Ruth decided to attend the University of Wisconsin, because her favorite grade school teacher had graduated from there. A life of following her own path continued from there.

As a pioneer woman in the business world, upon graduation, Ruth headed to St. Paul, Minnesota, to join a management training position at Montgomery Ward.

She left to travel the world for a while and upon returning home to Chicago, she joined a training program at Time Inc., which was looking for people to help the company convert its data storage and information processing from punch cards to magnetic tape. It was another example of the changing world she witnessed as she moved through her career.

Ruth spent the rest of her career with Time Life and later as a VP of their American Family publishing division. Her final paid position was as Director of Adult Christian Education at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

In appreciation for her education at the University of Wisconsin, Ruth has endowed a chair at its Business School.

“I’ve given the gift to express my appreciation for sending me on the road to productivity and a wonderful career,” she told the university. “It’s nice to be able to say thank you.”

Ruth has been a resident of the Clare since her move back to Chicago in 2013 and is back where she started—attending Fourth Church. Ruth is volunteering for the Newberry Library and she is looking forward to more engagement here at the church.

“Our legacy should reflect what we care about,” Ruth says. “The world has changed, but the key values, like being honest in all of your dealings, remain the same.” Remembering the church in your will is a great way to make sure those values are preserved in a changing world.

Please introduce yourself to Ruth the next time you see her at Fourth Church. Her enthusiasm for service is contagious, and her faith story can’t help but inspire!


Are there values central to you and your family that you want to promote with gifts that will live beyond you?

To schedule a conversation about ways in which you might honor others and support your passions and values into the future, contact Katy Frey Bever (312.981.3380).


126 E. Chestnut Street
(at Michigan Avenue)
Chicago, Illinois 60611.2014
(Across from the Hancock)

For events in the Sanctuary,
enter from Michigan Avenue

Getting to Fourth Church

Receptionist: 312.787.4570

Directory: 312.787.2729



© 1998—2023 Fourth Presbyterian Church