Alumna Transforms Tragedy Into Hope for Struggling Families

Lisa Rushton ’85 turned to empathy to transform a personal tragedy into a vehicle of hope for families struggling with infertility.
By 2005, Lisa had graduated from both Bucknell University and Tulane Law School, established herself as an environmental transactions lawyer, and made partner in the Washington, DC office of an international law firm, Paul Hastings, LLP. Feeling established in her career, she and her husband decided it was time to start a family, a journey that was more difficult than she ever imagined, but one that also gave new purpose to her life.
In 2009, after struggling to conceive and turning to Shady Grove Fertility Center for help, Lisa and her husband Charley Pereira welcomed their first daughter Savannah Caroline Pereira to the world via IVF.
“Within moments of birth, she smiled and squeezed our fingers with love,” said Lisa. “Over the next 10 months, we experienced unimaginable joy and love as Savannah amazed us with her tender, loving, and gentle ways.”
In a heartbreaking tragic accident, Savannah died Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at 10 and 1/2 months of age. Through the grieving process, Lisa and Charley learned to move forward, established an alliance with the Cade Foundation and created Savannah’s Fund, which annually provides a $10,000 grant to childless families struggling with infertility so that they may afford IVF and hopefully experience the joy of parenting a child one day. Since establishing the Fund, eight Savannah babies have entered the world and they hope to shortly have a ninth on the way.
Lisa also joined the Board of Trustees at the Cade Foundation, which provides information and education to families struggling with infertility in addition to grants to families for infertility treatments or adoption.
Stated Lisa, “Infertility is something people don’t discuss, even though one in eight couples struggle to conceive. It is an issue that crosses all social and economic borders.”
Lisa’s experiences have given her the empathy to relate to families in need of the foundation’s expertise. Shared Lisa, “When speaking at events for the Cade Foundation, I can relate to families on their fertility journey. I went through 11 cycles in order to conceive our three children, which is a lot more than most people go through. I’ve been where the grant recipients and potential grant recipients have been; I’ve felt the despair; and I overcame. Overcoming infertility can be difficult and an emotional roller coaster; I can understand and empathize with others going through the process.”
“Empathy is very different than sympathy. Nobody wants your sympathy, but they love your empathy because you understand what they are going through.”
Lisa now is based in North Carolina and a partner at the trans-Atlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, and credits her ability to relate to both the families struggling with infertility from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and her international client base to her time at Moravian Academy and the multicultural nature of the school. In her class of just 54 graduates, there were students from central and South America, Europe, and Asia. Each brought their own cultural viewpoints to the school allowing for great discussions and exposure to new ideas.
In closing, Lisa said, “Practicing empathy welcomes others in and takes away that feeling of alienation. In turn, that makes you more relatable. It creates a harmonious sense of being and working together as a community.”
To learn more about Savannah’s Fund, visit:

Merle Smith Campus

Downtown Campus