Ann Lurie, Nurse Who Became a Prominent Philanthropist, Dies at Age 79

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

Her death was announced in a statement from Northwestern University, to which Ms. Lurie, a trustee, had donated more than $60 million. The statement did not say where she died or give 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 in Equity Group Investments, working with a former University of Michigan fraternity member, 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 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's cancer center, the couple endowed 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 president of Lurie Investments, which helped support his charitable efforts.

Among his many projects at Northwestern University, he established breast cancer and oncology research chairs at the Feinberg School of Medicine and helped fund the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, a 12-story building.

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 since 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 for Gilda Radner, who died of cancer in 1989; and the University of Michigan. In 2004, Chicago honored Mr. Lurie by naming a four-block street West Ann Lurie Place.

Known for her hands-on approach to philanthropy, Ms. Lurie has also placed Africa and Asia at the center of her attention; for example, you founded the Africa Infectious Disease Village clinics in Kenya, which you supported for 12 years. While she was its director, she often went there.

“The dictionary definition of philanthropy is to love and care for humanity,” he said in a 2004 interview with The Sun-Times. “People can be philanthropists even if they’ve never picked up a checkbook. It’s about the passion you have for those who live in circumstances of poverty.”

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 was thwarted when her husband started law school; Although she came from a wealthy family, she later said, she insisted that they live on her nurse's salary.

The couple later settled in Fort Lauderdale, where the 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 been driving around in a Porsche his family had given him. The couple divorced in 1971, and, Ms. Lurie said, she “swore to myself that I would never again have anything to do 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 a laundry elevator in 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 discovered his wealth, he found they came from similar backgrounds (Mr. Lurie had been 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 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 that 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 shoveling the driveway himself. “He loved that kind of lifestyle,” Ms. Lurie said, “and so did I.”

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