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Redbird legacy: Lucille (Speers) Shurr family

What was it like to attend Illinois State University more than 80 years ago? The Shurr family answers the question by asking their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother Lucille—who reached the century mark in September.

Lucille Elizabeth (Speers) Shurr, born and raised in Odell, graduated in 1930 with a two-year degree in elementary education. She immediately began teaching all eight grade levels in a one-room schoolhouse in the Amish town of Cropsey. After a year she moved back to Odell to teach all eight grades at the school she had attended in her youth. In 1935 she began working at Pontiac Central Grade School (PCGS), where she retired as a third grade teacher in 1970 after 35 years of service.

“One grade is certainly easier to teach than the whole eight grades,” Lucille said. “Of course then they didn’t limit how many students you could have, so sometimes I would have 30 students in one grade.”

After moving to Pontiac, Lucille met Charles “Red” Shurr. They were married in 1941 and had twin sons, David and Donald Shurr. David followed in his mother’s footsteps and enrolled at Illinois State as a freshman in 1964.

“Both of my parents knew that for our generation college was going to open doors. They didn’t know which door it was going to open, but they knew it would open more doors,” David said.

While at the University, David met Barbara (Karstedt) Shurr. They married in 1968, the same year David received his bachelor’s degree in business administration education. He received his master’s degree in economics in 1970. Barbara completed her degree in 1969, becoming the first woman to graduate from the Economics Department.

Yet another graduate from the University was Lucille’s older sister, Grace (Speers) Jones, who received her teaching certificate in 1931 and her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State in 1935. Grace’s grandson, David Barker, teaches in the University’s Mathematics Department.

Lucille celebrated her 100th birthday at Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City, Iowa, where she moved in 1996 to be closer to her son Donald. The family event gave Lucille a chance to reflect on so many wonderful memories, including her start at Illinois State decades ago.

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