Nell Lurain

Nell S. Lurain, 75, died peacefully at home in Oak Park on Aug. 31, 2021. Born on Aug. 1, 1946 in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the late William P. and Alice Snavely, she grew up in Storrs, Connecticut. In 1968, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in biology and met her life partner, her husband of 52 years, John R. Lurain III. She went on to pursue an academic career in science, completing a PhD in microbiology at Loyola University of Chicago while simultaneously raising two daughters. Throughout their childhood, she was a dedicated presence on the sidelines at sporting events, reading scientific journal articles in between bursts of cheering.

In 2020, she retired from her position as professor of Immunology and Microbiology at Rush University after more than 25 years on the faculty. She loved the puzzle and practice of laboratory research and found human pathogens endlessly fascinating. This enthusiasm for her discipline, along with her nearly infinite patience, care, and commitment to education made her an excellent mentor and teacher. In 2019, she was awarded the Rush Faculty Excellence in Education Award.

A longtime, engaged member of First United Church of Oak Park, she found a community of faith that nurtured both her spirit and her strong sense that human beings have a collective responsibility to care for each other. Through the church, she became involved with Cluster Tutoring, first as a tutor, and later, as a board member. The organization’s mission corresponded closely with her belief in the power of education and the importance of investing in the future through young people.

Everyone who knew Nell was struck by her sharp intellect, her unflappable practicality, her understated sense of humor, and her deep concern for others. Her family, friends, and colleagues were warmed by her generosity of spirit and reassured by her steadfast reliability. Her affection and her “instructions” will be missed in equal measure.

In addition to her husband, Nell is survived by her children, Alice (Carla García) Lurain and Kate (Gabriel Alvarado) Lurain, and by her siblings, William (Susan) Snavely and Elizabeth (Van) Aldred. 

A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26 at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Cluster Tutoring (

Arrangements were handled by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home.

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