Ann Lurie, Nurse Who Became a Prominent Philanthropist, Is Dead at 79

Ann Lurie, Nurse Who Became a Prominent Philanthropist, Is Dead at 79


Ann Lurie, a self-described hippie who went on to become one of Chicago’s most celebrated philanthropists, in one instance giving more than $100 million to a hospital where she had once worked as a pediatric nurse, died on Monday. She was 79.

Her death was announced in a statement by Northwestern University, to which Ms. Lurie, a trustee, had donated more than $60 million. The statement did not say where she died or specify a cause.

An only child raised in Miami by a single mother, Ms. Lurie protested the Vietnam War while in college and planned to join the Peace Corps after she graduated. In interviews, she said she chafed at the trappings of wealth even after marrying Robert H. Lurie.

Mr. Lurie had built a real estate and investment empire as a partner in Equity Group Investments, teaming up with a former fraternity brother from the University of Michigan, Sam Zell, whose portfolio came to include The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Lurie held stakes in the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox.

He died of colon cancer in 1990 at 48, leaving an estate worth $425 million. By 2007, Ms. Lurie had donated $277 million, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

In recognition of the care Mr. Lurie received at Northwestern University’s cancer center, the couple endowed the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University to expand its treatment and research capabilities.

After her husband’s death, Ms. Lurie was president and treasurer of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation and the founder and president of Lurie Investments, which helped support her charitable efforts.

Among her many projects at Northwestern, she set up professorships in breast cancer research and oncology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and helped fund the 12-story Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center.

Her $100 million gift helped fund the construction of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which replaced Children’s Memorial Hospital, where Ms. Lurie had worked as a nurse starting in the early 1970s. The new hospital opened in 2012.

She was also a major benefactor of the Greater Chicago Food Depository; Gilda’s Club Chicago, a cancer support organization named after Gilda Radner, who died of cancer in 1989; and the University of Michigan. In 2004, Chicago honored Mr. Lurie by christening a four-block-long street West Ann Lurie Place.

Known for her hands-on approach to philanthropy, Ms. Lurie also made Africa and Asia a focus; for example, she founded Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics in Kenya, which she supported for 12 years. While serving as its director, she often traveled there.

“The dictionary definition of philanthropy is to love and care about mankind,” she said in a 2004 interview with The Sun-Times. “People can be philanthropists even if they never hit their checkbooks. It’s about the passion you feel towards those who are living in deprived circumstances.”

Ms. Lurie was born on April 20, 1945. Her parents divorced when she was 4, and Ann, an only child, grew up in a house in Miami with her mother, Marion Blue, a nurse, as well as her grandmother and an aunt.

Ms. Lurie enrolled in the nursing program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She married an aspiring lawyer and graduated in 1966.

Her plan to join the Peace Corps was waylaid when her husband started law school; although he was from an affluent family, she later said, she insisted that they live on her salary as a nurse.

The couple later settled in Fort Lauderdale, where her husband started a law practice and Ms. Lurie worked as a nurse at a county hospital.

“His priorities were considerably different,” she told The Sun-Times, adding that her husband had tooled around in a Porsche his family gave him. The couple divorced in 1971, and, Ms. Lurie said, she “vowed to myself that I was never again going to get involved with anyone who was wealthy.”

Lured by the culture and diversity of Chicago, she moved there “not knowing a soul,” she later said, and worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse at the hospital that would eventually bear her name.

She met Mr. Lurie that same year in an elevator to the laundry room in their apartment building. With his long red hair tied back in a bandanna, “he looked so alternative,” Ms. Lurie said in 2004. “If he had on a suit and tie, I wouldn’t have been interested at all.”

Although she said she had misgivings when she learned of his wealth, she learned that they came from similar backgrounds — Mr. Lurie was raised by his mother in Detroit after his father died when the boy was 11 — and had similar values.

The couple had two children before marrying, and then four more. Mr. Lurie was diagnosed with cancer in 1988.

Ms. Lurie married Mark Muheim, a film editor and cinematographer, in 2014. He survives her, as do her six children, 16 grandchildren and two of her husband’s sons.

In the 2004 interview, Ms. Lurie said she and Mr. Lurie had tried to steer their children away from a life of moneyed indolence. “We kept the kids grounded,” she said.

They hired a minimum of household help. Mr. Lurie even insisted on mowing their lawn and plowing their driveway himself. “He loved that kind of lifestyle,” Ms. Lurie said, “and so did I.”

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