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Renowned philanthropist Ann Lurie dies

Lurie’s gifts transformed health care in Chicago, the country and around the world
Ann Lurie
Ann Lurie was a Northwestern University life trustee who gave more than $60 million to the University over the years. Her connection with Northwestern began when her late husband, Robert, was undergoing treatment at the University’s cancer center.

Ann Lurie, well-known Chicago and global philanthropist whose name graces some of Chicago’s and the Midwest’s most vital academic, cultural, social service and health care institutions, died today due to complications from a recent illness, a spokesperson for her family said. She was 79.

Her many generous gifts benefited Northwestern University, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the University of Michigan and numerous health and education projects globally. She was recognized as one of the nation’s leading philanthropists and known as a “hands-on person” who was actively engaged in the projects she supported.

Born and raised in Florida, the only child of a single mother, Lurie earned a nursing degree from the University of Florida. After graduation, she worked in public health before relocating to Chicago in 1973, where she worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital. 

She met her late husband, commercial real estate titan Robert H. Lurie, business partner of the late Sam Zell, in the laundry room of her apartment building. Following Robert Lurie’s death in 1990, Lurie devoted herself to raising their six children and distinguishing herself as a committed benefactor to many causes in health care, education, social services and the arts. She was president of Lurie Investments and president and treasurer of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation.

In 2014, Lurie married filmmaker Mark Muheim, in Jackson, Wyoming, where they made their home.

Lurie was a Northwestern University life trustee who gave more than $60 million to the University over the years. Her connection with Northwestern began when her late husband, Robert, was undergoing treatment at the University’s cancer center.

In appreciation of the exceptional care Robert received, and driven by the belief in Northwestern’s future, the Luries went on to endow the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University as well as the state-of-the-art Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, a 12-story building with lecture auditoriums and laboratories that accommodates more than 1,000 researchers, technicians, postdoctoral students and lab assistants.

“Ann had a tremendous impact on Northwestern through her generosity, her leadership and her service,” said Northwestern President Michael Schill. “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. My deepest condolences to her family and to so many friends who loved her.”

Lurie established two professorships (in breast cancer research and oncology) at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. In 2021, Dr. Eric G. Neilson, vice president for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean at Feinberg, established the Ann Lurie Professorship in Oncology, to honor her tremendous generosity to Lurie Cancer Center and patients with cancer and their families worldwide.

“Ann Lurie was one of those truly remarkable philanthropists,” Neilson said. “She knew what Mary Lasker (an American health activist and philanthropist) before her also knew, that ‘people want the answer to many diseases, and they’re not going to get it without spending money, because money is frozen energy that unfreezes itself when you pay people to work’.

“Ann was extraordinarily generous, a great friend to the medical school, and the academic medical center writ large,” Neilson said. “Hardly a day went by when I didn’t come across something wonderful she had done for someone at some time. Our deepest sympathy goes out to her husband Mark and the children in her large family.”

Lurie made a $100 million gift to help build the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital.) It was the largest philanthropic commitment ever received in the hospital’s more than 125-year history. She also funded a professorship in cancer cell biology at the hospital.

Lurie said that her experiences as both an employee and a parent of six children —several of whom were treated at Children’s Memorial Hospital — influenced her to make the gift.

“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. “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.”

“Words cannot adequately convey the sadness we share with Ann’s family and friends, the entire Lurie Children’s team, and the scores of those she touched across Chicago and far beyond,” said Tom Shanley,president and CEO of Lurie Children’s Hospital. “Her gift to Lurie Children’s, influenced by her own experience as a pediatric nurse, was transformative to the health and well-being of our region’s children. Lurie Children’s will be forever grateful that Ann provided us a legacy within which to provide the highest quality, most compassionate care and one in which we are relentlessly dedicated to follow her mantra to ‘do a good deed daily.’”

“Ann was the most passionate and compassionate person I have ever known,” said Pat Magoon, former president and CEO of Lurie Children’s Hospital. “She cared deeply about improving the lives of others. In her heart, every child mattered, and no challenge was too big. Her immense intellectual investment matched her philanthropic support of so many important causes. She is and will remain an immense force for good in the world.”

Among her many gifts to Chicago, Lurie permanently endowed a Christmas party for children in need and low-income seniors at St. Vincent DePaul Center. She provided funds to launch the Greater Chicago Food Depository Campaign, and at Chicago’s Millennium Park she endowed the Lurie Garden and provided cornerstone funding for the Joan and Irving J. Harris Dance Theater. She also funded the PAWS Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic and the green roof atop the Access Living headquarters.

Globally, Lurie founded and served as president of Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc. (AID Village Clinics), a registered U.S. public charity focused on providing free quality medical care and public health services to rural communities in southeastern Kenya until its closing in late 2012. She was also involved in other health, education and environmental initiatives in other countries in Africa as well as in China and Nepal.

Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015, Lurie was a recipient of the Grant Goodrich Achievement Award from the Northwestern Alumni Association (2002), the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Award for Humanitarian Contributions to the Health of Humankind from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (2009) and the Anti-Defamation League’s Lifetime of Achievement Award (2009).

Lurie was a former member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, where she funded The Lurie Prize, an annual $100,000 award that recognizes the outstanding achievements of a promising young biomedical researcher and was the major supporter of Research America’s John Edward Porter Legacy Award.

“Ann Lurie was a wonderful and noble person, forceful but kind and caring,” said Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University. “Ann was an important trustee at Northwestern, where her generosity was transformative. Among the vast array of institutions to which she provided philanthropic support are the University of Michigan, where her late husband Bob matriculated; Gilda’s Club; The Chicago Food Depository and the Mbirikani AIDs clinic in Kenya. Ann was hands on, and she spent months in Kenya getting Mbirikani up and running. When Ann supported something, she was actively engaged in making an enterprise better.

“Ann had not only hundreds of admirers but hundreds of friends she cared about and who deeply cared about her and loved her,” Bienen said. “My wife, Leigh, and I are among those friends who mourn Ann Lurie’s passing and who send our deepest sympathies to her husband Mark Muheim and her children. Few people have made such a positive and extraordinary impact in Chicago, in the United States and in the wider world in the fields of education and health care and on the lives of thousands of people she knew and never knew. Ann Lurie was a national treasure.”

Lurie is survived by her husband, Mark Muheim, her six children, 16 grandchildren and Muheim’s two sons.

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