Ann Lurie, Nurse Who Became a Famed Philanthropist, Dies at 79

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

Her death was announced in a statement from Northwestern University, to which Ms. Lurie, a trustee, had donated more than $60 million. The statement does 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 graduation. In interviews, she said that she chafed at the trappings of wealth herself after marrying Robert H. Lurie.

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

He died of colon cancer in 1990 at age 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 Cancer Center, the couple donated to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University to expand its treatment and research capabilities.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Lurie served as president and treasurer of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation and founder and chairman of Lurie Investments, which helped support her charitable efforts.

Among his many projects at Northwestern, he established professorships in breast cancer and oncology research 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 the 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 was inaugurated in 2012.

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

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

“The definition of philanthropy in the dictionary is to love and care for humanity,” he said in a 2004 interview with the Sun-Times. “People can be philanthropists even if they never pay their checkbook. It's about the passion you feel towards those living in circumstances of deprivation.

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

Mrs. 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 fell through when her husband entered law school; even though he came from a wealthy family, she later said, she insisted they live on her nurse's salary.

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

“His priorities were dramatically different,” she told the Sun-Times, adding that her husband had driven around in a Porsche her family had given him. The couple divorced in 1971, and, Ms. Lurie said, “I vowed to myself that I would never again associate with anyone who was rich.”

Drawn to Chicago's culture and diversity, 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 on the way to the laundry room of their apartment building. With his long red hair tied in a bandana, “he looked so alternative,” Ms. Lurie said in 2004. “If he had worn a suit and tie, he wouldn't have interested me at all.”

Although he said he had doubts when he learned of his wealth, he 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 values similar.

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

Mrs. Lurie married Mark Muheim, an editor and cinematographer, in 2014. He survives her, as do her six children, 16 grandchildren and her husband's two children.

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

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

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