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Ann Lurie stands at the future site of the Millennium Park Garden in 2003. Ms. Lurie was one of the donors for the garden.

Ann Lurie stands at the future site of the Millennium Park Garden in 2003. Ms. Lurie was one of the donors for the garden.

Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times file

Ann Lurie, who came to Chicago a nurse and became one of city’s best-known philanthropists, dies at 79

A self-described hippie, Ms. Lurie moved to Chicago in 1973 to work as an intensive care nurse. She wound up giving tens of millions of dollars to major organizations both in the city and beyond.

Ann Lurie came to Chicago in 1973, recently divorced and “not knowing a soul,” but attracted by the city’s diversity and culture and looking for work as a pediatric intensive care nurse.

Half a century later, Ms. Lurie is one of the city’s best-known philanthropists, with a street bearing her name and the children’s hospital where she once worked now named for her and her second husband.

“Her unwavering dedication and generous contributions to our organization touched countless lives and will continue to be a source of inspiration to us all, and her absence will be deeply felt,” Dr. Tom Shanley, the president of Lurie Children’s, said in a statement from the hospital.

Ann Lurie, one of the most prolific and visible philanthropists in Chicago’s history, died Monday. She was 79.

She died of “complications from a recent illness,” a family spokesperson said in a statement released by Northwestern University.

Ann Lurie speaking at the ribbon cutting & opening ceremony for the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. at 225 E. Chicago Ave. Monday, June 4, 2012.

Ann Lurie speaking at the ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony for the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2012.

Brian Jackson/Sun-Times file

Well known for her generosity, she gave millions to the university, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Greater Chicago Food Depository, PAWS Chicago and several other organizations and charitable efforts both in the city and beyond, according to a statement from Northwestern.

A self-described hippie, Ms. Lurie protested the Vietnam War while studying nursing in college in her home state of Florida, planning on joining the Peace Corps. But instead she married and worked as nurse in Florida while her first husband went to law school.

After that marriage ended, Ms. Lurie moved to Chicago in 1973 to work as a pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital, the hospital that would eventually bear her name.

She soon met the man who would become her second husband, Robert H. Lurie, a successful commercial real estate businessman. They were both on their way to do laundry in their Lincoln Park apartment building. She was smitten by his hippy looks and later learned what he did for a living, Ms. Lurie told the Sun-Times in 2004.

“We had a similar upbringing. We came from similar circumstances and had similar values,” Ms. Lurie told the Sun-Times. “I certainly was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

The two had six children together before Robert Lurie died from colon cancer in 1990 at the age of 48. He left behind an estate worth $425 million.

Never comfortable with the trappings of wealth, Ms. Lurie dedicated herself to putting her late husband’s money to good use. By 2007, she had donated $277 million of her husband’s estate, the Sun-Times reported at the time.

Ann Lurie, center, visits with nurses at Children's Memorial Hospital in 2007, after giving $100 million to fund the new hospital that would be named for her and her late husband. Ms. Lurie was a nurse at the hospital when she first moved here in 1973.

Ann Lurie, center, visits with nurses at Children’s Memorial Hospital in 2007, after giving $100 million to fund the new hospital that would be named for her and her late husband. Ms. Lurie was a nurse at the hospital when she first moved here in 1973.

Al Podgorski/Sun-Times file

Mayor Brandon Johnson said “the City of Chicago loses a true flagbearer of philanthropy whose contributions have touched countless lives.”

“Ann’s spirit of generosity and her selfless drive to make the world a better place will forever inspire the people of our city. I am extending my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends, as her legacy of kindness and compassion will be cherished and remembered always,” the mayor said in a statement.

Ms. Lurie dedicated herself to many causes in health care, education, social services and the arts, in Chicago and around the world. She was often ranked as one of the nation’s most generous philanthropists. In 2004, Chicago named a four-block-long street Ann Lurie Place on the Southwest Side. She was president of Lurie Investments and president and treasurer of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation.

Ann Lurie holds a street sign from a street named after her. at her office in 2004.

Ann Lurie holds a street sign from a street named after her. at her office in 2004.

Brian Jackson/Sun-Times file

What started with her husband undergoing treatment at the Northwestern’s cancer center became an ongoing relationship with the university. Ms. Lurie gave the university $60 million over the years and was a Northwestern University life trustee. She also endowed the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center.

“Ann had a tremendous impact on Northwestern through her generosity, her leadership and her service,” said Northwestern President Michael Schill in the university’s statement. “As a trustee, she helped propel the University and our medical research to ever greater heights. She touched so many lives, both at Northwestern and well beyond.”

She also donated $37 million to the University of Michigan, her husband’s alma mater, and its Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center.

In 2007, Ms. Lurie donated $100 million to Children’s Memorial Hospital, which helped build the hospital’s Streeterville location, now called Lurie Children’s, the hospital said in a statement. That donation remains the largest charitable investment in the hospital’s 142-year history.

Ann Lurie in 2007 photo.

Ann Lurie in 2007.

Provided

In 2007, it was the largest gift to any children’s hospital anywhere.

“They needed a big donor to step up to the plate,” Ms. Lurie said at the time.

Her experiences as a former employee and as a parent of children treated at the hospital inspired her donation.

“I hope that this gift will both provide critical funding for the new hospital and serve as an inspiration for others to make a commitment and give as they are able,” she said in 2007, according to Northwestern.

“Our future depends on our children and the generations of children after them. I feel that we have an obligation to be supportive of advances in pediatric medical care that will ensure the health of those children.”

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital located at 225 East Chicago Avenue in the Gold Coast neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital located at 225 East Chicago Ave. in the Gold Coast neighborhood in 2022

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Ms. Lurie also permanently endowed a Christmas party for children in need and low-income seniors at the St. Vincent DePaul Center. She helped finance the launch of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. She provided funds for the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park, Joan and Irving J. Harris Dance Theater and the PAWS Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic.

Kate Maehr, executive director for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said Ms. Lurie not only made financial donations to the food pantry, but she was also a regular volunteer.

“Ann believed that food is a human right and hunger is a problem we can solve,” Maehr said in a statement. “For more than three decades she invested in our work, including a lead gift for the campaign that built the Food Depository’s facility in 2004. She never asked us for recognition, but understood that her philanthropy could inspire others to join the movement.”

“We thank Ann Lurie, not only for her generosity, but for her shared vision of a No Kill Chicago,” said Paula Fasseas, founder and executive chair of PAWS Chicago. “The PAWS Chicago Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic, which opened in 2000, made an immediate and dramatic impact on this city, and it continues to be the primary force in reducing pet homelessness and euthanasia in Chicago today.”

Mark Muheim and Ann Lurie attend a gala event to benefit Ann and Robert H. Lurie, Children's Hospital of Chicago in 2012.

Mark Muheim and Ann Lurie attend a gala event to benefit Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2012.

Scott Stewart/Sun-Times Media

She founded and served as president of Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc., a charity that provided public health services to rural communities in southeastern Kenya until 2012. She also funded rural schools in Ethiopia and archeological digs in Egypt.

Ms. Lurie grew up in Miami, the only child of a single mother. She earned a nursing degree from the University of Florida and worked in public health before moving to Chicago.

Ms. Lurie remarried in 2014 to filmmaker Mark Muheim, in Jackson, Wyoming. She is survived by her husband, her six children, 16 grandchildren and Muheim’s two sons.

Services are pending.

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