High School Education 2020

When Judy Hurley graduated from St. Joan Antida in 1968, she didn’t want to leave. For four years, she’d loved the life she built, nestled in between the freshly painted walls of the then brand-new girls school.

Many of her friends followed her from grade school to St. Joan Antida, and there their friendships flourished and grew along with many new ones.

“I can’t tell you how I loved those years,” Hurley said. “There was so much to get involved in, so many loving teachers; it was warm and welcoming and all these years later so dear to me.”

After graduation, she went on to UW-Whitewater, but came home a few months later with the intention of enrolling at Mount Mary. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do; so her mother told her that until she decided, she’d better get a job and put her hands to work doing something. A neighbor worked at Northwestern Mutual and told Hurley they were always hiring. She got dressed up, filled out an application, was hired immediately and spent the next 38 and a half years in the career she hadn’t known she wanted.

“It was a wonderful company,” she said. Which is why her intention to go back to college was put off until after she got married to her husband Donald in 1972, and then again until after their first child Nicholas was born in 1979. Finally, in 1983, she enrolled in Alverno College to begin chipping away at the dream she’d held dear since graduating from St. Joan Antida. While she went to college, she continued her work at Northwestern Mutual and had her tuition paid for by the company.

“It was a dream come true, and they helped make it possible,” she said.

In 1998, when her son graduated from Marquette High School, Judy was 10 years past graduating with her undergrad degree and began to toy with the idea of getting her master’s. Northwestern Mutual helped to pay for Nicholas’ tuition at Loyola and for her master’s in instructional design and adult education at Alverno.

“I learned a lot there,” Hurley said. “I think, though, that’s where I realized how amazing nuns are.”

Hurley, who’d gone to Catholic grade school and high school, had the benefit of being surrounded by nuns throughout her entire educational life.

“I was in awe of them at Alverno; the professors I had were so smart, at the PhD level,” Hurley said, noting that seeing them as an adult made her reflect on all the nuns she’d been taught by, how they’d built the foundation of her faith that began at home and grew stronger over the years. She saw during her years at Alverno the delicate way the sisters educated her academically and spiritually with quiet grace. She saw how her faith grew with nearly every interaction with them, and she took that knowledge and her growing understanding of who Christ is with her when she left them.

“So much fruit came from my decision to go get my master’s at Alverno,” Hurley said. “I grew spiritually and ended up getting the best job I had at Northwestern Mutual because of it.”

For eight years, she ran a usability lab for the company, testing design software and websites by observing the end user to see how the design worked. They set up a mock office with cameras and test subjects, and observed them working through scenarios to find certain information. Her role was to analyze the data and help identify what needed to be changed, and what issues had to be addressed in training.

“It was the most interesting work I’ve ever done,” Hurley remembered.

For almost the entirety of her career, Hurley worked beside one of her best friends from St. Joan Antida, Rose. In 2007, after watching her dear friend battle breast cancer for 11 years, Hurley decided to retire with her so that they could spend what time they had left together. She calls it one of the best decisions of her life. The pair spent the early days of their retirement vacationing together, remembering former days of glory. When Rose’s health began to further decline, she was unable to drive or do household chores; so Hurley stepped in and offered her loving support. She took Rose to her doctor’s appointments and treatments, she went over to Rose’s house every week to cook for her and do her laundry.

Both devoted Catholics, they attended Blessed Sacrament Parish’s once-a-month Mass to honor St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, and held hands as they prayed for strength and healing.

“We had this great history together, a friendship that began when we were little and strengthened. I couldn’t have gotten through losing her, (and) she couldn’t have gotten through all that pain, without knowing exactly who had us in his hands.”

They spent four great years together leaning on one another and their faith before Rose passed away in 2011.

Hurley mused how most of the deep spiritual learning in her life came from holy women, the nuns who educated her, and Rose. “We miss something from the faith when we aren’t taught at least in part by women.”

In many ways, the young girl who never wanted to leave St. Joan Antida hasn’t. For 26 years, Hurley has been on the school’s auction committee, and spent 16 on the development committee working to keep her beloved school open and educating. She works every spaghetti dinner, and goes to every fundraiser.

She said, “I want to see all of these young girls have as good of an experience there as I’ve had. I want this school to keep helping young girls build a solid ground that will help sustain them for the rest of their lives.”

Judy Hurley