Tom and Julie Hurvis met in the late 1950s as undergraduates at Lawrence University. She devoted her life to people, especially those in need, and enthusiastic advocacy of the Bahá’í faith’s vision of a unified and peaceful world.
In her memory, Tom Hurvis has made a generous gift to Lawrence for the establishment of the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, which will continue her legacy with countless generations of students, faculty and staff.
Julie, who passed away last July, was a 1961 Lawrence graduate while Tom graduated in 1960.
As devoted members of the Bahá’í faith, the Hurvises strongly believed in the power of spirituality. They embraced the wisdom of `Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the religion’s founder and its one-time leader, who once said, “Man is, in reality, a spiritual being and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.”
Designed to further enhance the transformative experience a Lawrence education provides, the new leadership position will be dedicated to reinforcing a welcoming and supportive community environment for spiritual and religious exploration and expression.
The gift will endow the position and its related programming in perpetuity. A national candidate search to fill the new position will begin immediately.
“Julie Hurvis’ impact on Lawrence can be felt on this campus every day,” said President Mark Burstein. “She cared deeply about every student and worked to ensure they succeeded at the university. Our inaugural dean of spiritual and religious life will not only help ensure that success but also will be a reminder of Julie’s life, values and care for the individual. I am grateful to Tom and Julie for creating this legacy and caring so deeply about our students.”
The focus of the dean’s position will include education, student support and mentoring, campus programs, enhancing connections to the religious communities of the Fox Cities, and campus spiritual leadership.
“Lawrence strives to meet the intellectual and developmental needs of students, however, for many students, their needs include spiritual support,” said Nancy Truesdell, vice president for student affairs. “The Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life will be an important resource for those students. We’ll also be able to provide a location where they can have conversations about faith and their personal values as well as a space for reflection or prayer.”
A leadership position dedicated to the spiritual and religious needs of the campus community has been discussed for several years, sparked by research Truesdell conducted while on sabbatical leave in 2010 as well as campus climate surveys completed by students. More recent conversations she had with a wide range of campus constituents underscored a need to strengthen the college’s support of students of faith.
“Julie Hurvis’ impact on Lawrence can be felt on this campus every day. Our inaugural dean of spiritual and religious life will not only help ensure that success but also will be a reminder of Julie’s life, values and care for the individual.”
— President Mark Burstein
The dean will serve as a senior campus leader, collaborating with individual students and groups, faculty, staff, local clergy and community organizations to offer support in the exploration of spirituality, religion and morality. The new position will provide a resource and counselor during moments of tragedy and crisis, working with the campus community to provide opportunities for meaningful ceremonies and celebrations for a range of religions and interfaith services.
Student Kathryn Bellile feels the new dean “will be an important voice on campus to advocate for students of faith.”
“A dean could be a great support for faith-based organizations on campus, helping them to engage with the life of the university and helping to get students involved in faith communities if they haven’t found their way to one,” said Bellile, a senior from Appleton and a member of the college’s Lawrence Christian Fellowship organization. “Investing in this position shows a thoughtful concern for the needs of students of faith and an interest in broadening our definition of diversity to include people who hold different convictions and beliefs.
“For students of faith, their religion may be the most important aspect of their life and identity,” added Bellile. “This will send a message to current and future students that their faith is recognized by the Lawrence community and that the campus is willing to accept and support that part of who they are. They don’t have to check their convictions at the door to participate fully in the community we have here.”
Long-time faculty member Steven Jordheim called the new dean’s position “a transformative moment in the life of our university.”
“The creation of the position of dean of spiritual and religious life demonstrates Lawrence’s commitment to the spiritual wholeness and wellness of all students, faculty and staff,” said Jordheim, professor of music, who joined the Lawrence conservatory in 1981. “The presence of the dean on our campus and the support, mentoring and programming available through this new office will facilitate important dialogue and understanding regarding various religious and spiritual beliefs, practices and experiences within a context of mutual support and respect.”
The Hurvis gift also will support a new campus spiritual and religious center, providing students, faculty and staff space to explore, learn, worship and connect on issues of spirituality and religion. The center will be created through a renovation of an existing campus building, with capacity for updates to meet future needs.
A native of Sheboygan, Julie Hurvis was a life-long enthusiast of Wisconsin’s scenic beauty. Gifted with a strong visual sense, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence in studio art and later earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago.
She took great pride in the countless lives she touched throughout the Chicago area, especially those she had an impact on through 40 years of continuous service as a member of the Glenview (Ill.) Spiritual Assembly, the annually elected body stewarding Bahá’í’s activities in the village.
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.