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DePaul Loses Track Standout Brigadier General William Hurley
William Hurley

William Hurley

Jan. 27, 2011

DePaul Athletics lost one of its pioneering distance runners with the passing of Brigadier General William J. Hurley.

But to call him only a runner is an understatement. William Hurley lived a life of service to his family, his country and his community through education.

Hurley owned DePaul's school record for the indoor two-mile run with a time of 10 minutes, 41.6 seconds, which he set in a dual meet against Beloit College on March 23, 1949. The Blue Demon letterwinner from 1948-50's shattered the previous DePaul standard by 21 seconds.

Hurley was the co-captain for the 1949 track & field squad and consistently was among DePaul's top runners throughout the season.

At the Triangular Meet against University of Chicago and Morton College, Hurley led DePaul with a third-place finish as the Demons were outdistanced by the U. of C. 66-56.5.

The following week, DePaul competed in a quadrangular meet against University of Chicago, Loyola and Illinois Tech. Again Hurley led the Demons, this time in the two-mile where he finished second.

At the 1949 Midwest Invitational Track Meet, where more than 400 athletes from 31 schools competed, Hurley was pinpointed in The DePaulia (March 11, 1949) for his performance in the two-mile run.



"Bill Hurley represented DePaul in the next event, the grueling two-mile race. At the starting gun, Bill was in the rear most position, but slowly began to move up toward the front of the group of runners. The mile point found Bill leading by 10 yards and setting a blistering pace. Passing the mile-and-a-half point, Bill was half a lap away from the nearest opponent. Bill crossed the finish line three quarters of a lap ahead of the rest of the runners, completely lapping the majority. The time of the race was 10:28.3.

"After relaxing for a bit, Bill was approached by the great distance runner, at the present time coaching Wheaton College, Gil Dodds. Gill Dodds congratulated Bill for running such a fine race and to make Bill's victory more thrilling, asked him what schedule he had set for pacing himself."

That sterling performance opened the eyes of the writers from The DePaulia, the school's student newspaper. From that time forward, Hurley's performances were covered more closely by the paper.

Hurley teamed with DePaul Hall of Famer Nate Blackman, Joe Legner and Ross Tornabene to finish fifth in the distance medley relay at the Illinois Tech Relays. The Relays provided stiff competition as the Blue Demons finished behind Western Michigan, Chicago, St. Thomas and South Dakota State.

After setting DePaul's two-mile record at Beloit, Hurley returned to the track in style by winning the mile in a dual against Concordia. His triumph set the tone for DePaul in its 99-28 dual meet win. Hurley was highlighted in The DePaulia with a mug shot accompanying the story.

Hurley battled a Wheaton runner a in a compelling dual in April of 1949. The DePaulia called the race "the most exciting race of the afternoon." Unfortunately Hurley dropped the matchup against the Wheaton star. The paper's narrative called the action, "As the race progressed a hum of excitement permeated the atmosphere as the coveted first position changed from one runner to the other. At the finish the speedy-full-blooded Indian Denetsone, was neck in neck with Bill, but the decision was in favor of the Wheaton man."

The following week, Hurley was featured in a large picture on the front page of The DePaulia sports page crossing the finish line while holding the baton at the Illinois Tech Relays earlier in the season.

The 1949 season ended with a meeting of the Monogram Club, DePaul's version of today's D-Club. On May 6, 1949 Bill Hurley was named the organization's vice-president. He served with Hall of Famer Steven Crane.

Hurley opened his senior cross country and track seasons with a new coach, a Notre Dame man named John McKenna. Under McKenna's guidance the Blue Demons continued to improve. In cross country, Hurley battled for the top spot with teammates Tom Meehan and Joe Legner.  The season was capped with Legner and Hurley finishing 25th and 27th respectively at the Central Collegiate Conference Cross Country Championship.

Though he was proud of his success as a runner at DePaul, Hurley's life wasn't defined by his running.  Hurley centered his life around his family, his service to the country and his service to the community through education.

He and his wife Jane Hurley met at DePaul and enjoyed 56 years of marriage. The couple had six children and was blessed to have 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Hurley served his country during a 35-year journey from his humble beginning as a buck private to his commission as Brigadier General. At age 17, Hurley enlisted in the Army Air Corp, the predecessor of the Air Force, and was sent off to the World War II. He would continue to serve until his retirement in 1983.

In addition to his service to his country, Hurley dedicated his life to education. After earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees at DePaul, a M.S. in education at Chicago State, and a Ph.D. at Rutgers through a Ford Fellowship. Hurley taught on all levels.

His abiding passion was training educators to teach reading. He taught at Chicago State, St. Xavier, Triton College and finished his career as assistant to the dean of education at Chicago State.

His commitment to reading and education wasn't limited to the classroom. Hurley authored the Dan Frontier series of books. The 11-book collection featured a Davey Crockett-like figure in reader-friendly tales that increased reading skills while presenting American history.

An internet search of the Dan Frontier series provides a glimpse of the impact Hurley's books had on teaching young readers. There are blogs full of testaments about the value of the books in education.

A recent review on shows Hurley's book's lasting value nearly four decades after it was first written.

"This book is great for beginning readers, especially boys. This series holds my struggling reader son's attention better than any others. New words are repeated often, but within a context that makes sense and is not stilted. Wish today's authors had the same talent!"

DePaul salutes William J. Hurley as a man dedicated to a life of service.



Obituary from Chicago Tribune - January 16-17, 2011 

 Brigadier General William James Hurley, Jr. (ILANG Ret.), is survived by his wife, Jane (Hezel) Hurley; six children, Ellen (David), Jane Ann (Abdullah), William III (Dawn), Major Michael (Deborah), Lt. Colonel Patrick (Christine), and Matthew; 11 grandchildren, Ahmed, Ellen, Mariam, Michael, Adal, Yusef, Brian, Ann, Patrick, Margaret, and William; and three siblings, Sister Marian, Father John, and Vincent (Patricia). William is preceded in death by his parents; two siblings, Frank (Irene) and Mary (William).

William served in WWII with the Army Air Corps 452nd Bombardment Group, 1943 to 1945. He flew combat missions in Europe as a Waist Gunner and Radar Operator on B-17 bombers. William participated in the 'Revival' Mission liberating POW's from Horsching AB in Austria. In 1945 he flew the 'Chow Hound' Mission which dropped food to the starving people of Holland.

He began his military career as a Private and 40 years later, 1983, retired as a Brigadier General from the Illinois Air National Guard.

During the 1950's and 1960's,William authored the Dan Frontier Series for children. The series portrayed pioneer life in early America. The series was used in schools and libraries throughout the United States.

When not serving his country, William was an educator and role model. After WWII he attended DePaul University and obtained a Masters degree and later attended Rutgers University completing Doctoral work on a Ford Fellowship. He taught in Chicago Public schools in the late 50's and culminated his teaching career as a Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Chicago State University until retiring in 1995 after more than 35 years as an educator.