Christine Geovanis, during the 2019 strike, with her husband Dick Reilly.

Christine Geovanis (right) talks to reporters on her cell phone during a solidarity rally, accompanied by her late husband, Dick Reilly (left). Source: Sarah Rhee

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of longtime CTU Communications Director, trade unionist, organizer and justice warrior Christine Geovanis.

Passing away on Feb. 12, surrounded by close family, Chris will be remembered for her legacy as an organizer who also happened to be a great communicator and an even stronger advocate for unionized educators and working families of Chicago. Joining the CTU Communications team during the time of Karen Lewis, Geovanis brought her whole self to the work of the union and betterment of Chicago’s classrooms and city.

As President Davis Gates recognized, “a lot of the transformation we are seeing in Chicago today — building a city that works for the many, not the few — has its roots in Chris’ work to root out injustices and move people to change them.”

Chris’ wit and irreverence were matched only by her devotion to the cause of human liberation. Throughout her life she threw herself into fighting for racial and social justice, against police brutality, to free political prisoners, for gender freedom, for liberation against colonialism — from Latin America to Africa to Palestine — and to foster Chicago’s Left, especially the reporters and communicators that made up her grassroots media comrades. Many of Chicago’s best-known organizers testify to the wisdom and nurturance that she provided them as they set out in pursuit of social justice.

“I met Chris as a college student at UIC when she helped activists expose police brutality,” CTU Vice President Jackson Potter recalled. “She was always determined to give voice to the voiceless. That’s why we knew she was the right person to run communications for CTU. She understood the pulse and the purpose of our movements.”

For much of her life, Chris was regularly seen conspiring with her “partner-in-crime,” husband Dick Reilly, himself well-known as a street medic at demonstrations, as well as a strategist and organizer for many causes — especially that of Palestinian freedom. Dick’s death in 2020 left a hole in Chris’s life that she sought to fill by laboring for justice with an ever-intensifying fervor.

While on medical leave for the past year, Chris was known to call into the office, offer up advice and pitch stories about the educators who make this city go. Chris’ work ethic could best be described as “first one in, last one out,” as she regularly spent late nights at CTU headquarters writing, editing and strategizing ways to passionately communicate the union’s vision to rank-and-file members—whom she appreciated and respected—as well as to the people of Chicago.

Known for spending hours on the phone with reporters, Chris would always make sure they both got the story and understood exactly how it impacted the students, families and educators of our city.

“Chris was a lifelong revolutionary. Her commitment to the CTU was only one part of her worldview,” former CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “She worked tirelessly and without regard for her own sleep or ego, fighting against racism and police violence, protesting U.S. wars, and advocating for justice for the Palestinian people.”

Her biggest complaint about the cancer that took her life was that it prevented her from getting out in the streets for our brother, Brandon Johnson’s, mayoral campaign. She was thrilled at his victory and grateful that she lived to see it.

The Chicago Teachers Union and all who work to create a more just city and world, will miss Chris’s fighting spirit, her wry sense of humor, her warmth and her steadfast camaraderie.

Christine Geovanis ¡PRESENTE!

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 300,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.