Remembering Fr. Francis Hurley, C.S.C.
january 22, 2010

 

Pettit Atrium

The father of biology at Stonehill and one of the pioneers of the College's science program, the Rev. Francis Hurley, C.S.C., died on Friday, January 22. He had been in failing health for some time.

In May 2007, Fr. Hurley celebrated his 80th birthday and was also named professor emeritus at the College. Since 1960, he helped students to master the complexities of biology, advised them on career paths, and assisted them in securing professional positions or acceptance into respected graduate programs.

For 32 of those 50 years, Fr. Hurley chaired the Biology Department with skill and vision, hiring outstanding faculty members, setting rigorous academic standards, and creating an enviable spirit of collegiality in the department.

Significantly, he was ahead of his time in encouraging women in the sciences and also in tracking the advanced degrees of our science alumni.

At the dedication of the College's new Shields Science Center in September last year, President Mark Cregan, C.S.C. '78 hailed Fr. Hurley for his accomplishments as a teacher-mentor in the sciences. He also paid tribute to Fr. Hurley for his long-standing insistence that the College build a modern science center.

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Science Center in 2007, Fr. Hurley had the honor of removing the first scoop of dirt from the foundation.

Among colleagues and alumni, Fr. Hurley was held in the highest regard for his role in giving students the strong foundation in the sciences that they needed for graduate work, research, or professional positions.

In 2003, Fr. Hurley received the Stonehill President's Medal for Excellence in recognition of how, as a priest-professor, he exemplified excellence in everything he did. In presenting that award to Fr. Hurley, President Cregan noted:

"Peers and alumni admire you for your professional example as well as for your commitment to scientific rigor. You are loved for your humanity and for the constant care that you show for each individual. And, as many here tonight will attest, you are an expert and patient listener."

Prior to that award, he received a Moreau Medallion on the occasion of Stonehill's 50th anniversary in 1998 for his many contributions to the College during its first half century.

In addition to his work at Stonehill, Fr. Hurley assisted with parish work in the local area and was involved with community outreach programs for the dying and the mentally ill.

Established in 2003, The Rev. Francis J. Hurley, C.S.C. Scholarship Fund at Stonehill assists academically qualified students, majoring in biology, with financial needs in their junior or senior year. So far, six students have benefited from his scholarship.

Here is what just some of his admirers have said about Fr. Hurley over the years:

"For many of us who were science majors during his tenure, Fr. Hurley was Biology at Stonehill. From his beautifully drawn and annotated class notes to his wonderful lectures, his courses were among the most respected and highly regarded in the College's scientific disciplines at that time.

"Fr. Hurley expertly shepherded generations of working scientists and clinicians through their undergraduate years with great intelligence and affection.

"All of us remain indebted to Fr. Hurley for this and much more," said Marsha A. Moses, Ph.D. '75, professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School/The Children's Hospital, and member of Stonehill's Board of Trustees.

"During his classes, Fr. Hurley made jokes and simplified everything with drawings and explanations. I did not even realize what I had learned until I began reviewing the material. The knowledge he had imparted, as well as the techniques to break complex material into manageable parts, have truly helped me to achieve my educational goals at Stonehill. He has such unerring dedication and devotion to the subject matter and his students, that I could not imagine a Stonehill education without him," said Benjamin Seidel '07.

"I had zero interest in biology when I came to Stonehill the first year Fr. Hurley taught here; his understated, humorous, narrative approach to the connectedness, surprises, beauty and comedy inherent in the study of living things woke me up and changed my life goals.

"When I came back 15 years later to teach, Fr. Hurley was Chair, a strong, wise, patient, and supportive model of what academic leadership should be. I know from my students and advisees that his teaching in the classroom and lab has been consistently effective for almost five decades in preparing students for graduate and professional school programs," noted Maura Tyrrell, associate professor of biology, who attended Stonehill before transferring to Trinity College in Washington, D.C.

"Fr. Hurley's impact on my career was immediate. Within days of my arrival, I had a clear sense that his department could become my academic home for the long term. Early successes were recognized and appreciated; but more importantly, I felt supported and encouraged as I worked out the kinks in my personal approach to teaching and research.

"I soon realized that Fr. Hurley's enabling influence extended to many junior and even senior faculty, and to literally scores of students. Fr. Hurley sets a high standard as a friend, colleague, mentor, and academic leader," said Bob Peabody, professor of biology.

To see a Snapshot featuring photos of Fr. Hurley through the years, visit here.

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