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Anne Thurman, longtime School of Communication professor, dies

Anne H. Thurman, emeritus professor in the Northwestern University School of Communication’s Department of Theatre, died April 22 at the age of 93.

Thurman was a lifelong educator, teaching in the Evanston public schools and at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, before teaching at Northwestern University from 1971 to 1985. Thurman took an active and varied role over many years in the promotion of drama in Evanston schools and in the Children’s Theatre of Evanston. She also took an interest in dramatic activities for senior citizens, co-authoring the handbook Dramatic Activities with Older Adults.

Anne Hardy Thurman was born in Lexington, Indiana, on May 11, 1919. She received both her B.S. (1940) and M.A. (1963) degrees from Northwestern University.

During the periods 1940-1942 and 1956-1963 Thurman taught in the Evanston public schools. She served on the faculty of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, from 1942 to 1946.

Thurman lectured part-time at Northwestern in 1968-1969 and joined the regular faculty in 1971 as an associate professor of dramatic production. She attained the rank of professor in 1975. The Children’s Theatre Association of America presented its Creative Drama for Human Awareness Award to Thurman in 1978.

She retired in 1985 and was appointed professor emeritus of theatre. In 2003, she was awarded the lifetime achievement medallion from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, honoring her “as a national mentor of creative drama and theatre for the children of America.”

“Anne Thurman will be remembered as an international authority on drama and theatre education,” said Rives Collins, associate professor of theatre. “She touched a generation of teachers and her legacy will live on in the classrooms of the future.”

Thurman remained active in national and international professional organizations, and was a valiant advocate for drama and theatre education in the lives of young people. “She did as much after retiring as she did before retiring,” Collins said.

“Anne remained a dedicated theatre goer into her retirement,” said Dominic Missimi, emeritus professor in service in the theatre department. “She often took in two or three productions a week. Everyone who encountered this remarkable educator could not help but be touched by her enthusiasm and commitment to quality theatre. Her passion for theatre for youth was contagious.”

Collins remembered moving to Evanston to start teaching at Northwestern with his wife, two dogs, and one cat—but no housing arranged. Thurman invited his “whole menagerie” to move in with her for two weeks while they arranged for their own living quarters. “Her home was always open,” Collins said. “There was a guest room, and always someone in it. We lovingly called it the Thurman Motel.”

“Extraordinary is a pale description of this wonderful woman,” Missimi said.

She is survived by her son, Bruce, and her grandchildren, Justine and William.