May 9, 2021

Dr. Kevin M. Hurley Remembered

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of one of Seekonk’s most beloved educators, Dr. Kevin M. Hurley. Many were fortunate enough to know him, to have taken one of his classes or joined him on one of the memorable 8th grade camping trips. The Seekonk Middle School was named in his honor.

Hurley was a teacher, friend, mentor, and an inspiration to many, as well as a loving husband to Judy and father to Kevin, Jr. He was 52 years old when he died of cancer, but his spirit lives on at the middle school and in the hearts of everyone who knew him.

Hurley always wanted to be a teacher. He graduated from Rhode Island College in May of 1974 and began teaching that September at the Seekonk Middle School, known then as Seekonk Intermediate School, or just the “Junior High.” While there, he earned a Masters Degree from Rhode Island College in Special Education. He taught English and History/Social Studies for more than 20 years.

The 8th Grade Camping Trip

In 1976, Hurley and fellow teachers Ken Sheehan and Alan Thivierge started a tradition of taking the 8th grade class on a three-day camping trip. The camping trip was an annual tradition in town for more than 30 years.

People who went on the trip years ago still have fond memories from it. Memories of camp fires, sleeping in tents, square dancing, “orienteering” and just enjoying the outdoors with friends.

“One of my favorite memories as a kid was the camping trip. Kevin brought everyone together. Kids that might not necessarily hang out together opened up to each other in a way that they might not in a school environment. We also got to know the teachers on a personal level,” said Mike Bingham, who attended the trip for a few years, first as a student and then as a chaperone.

“It became more than a trip. It became a rite of passage,” said Judy Hurley.

Dr. Hurley wrote about the camping trip and what it meant to those involved. Here is an excerpt:

“You see it is all about re-centering. Finding out who we are, before we can get about being who we can become…The trip, in so many ways, needs to take place each spring, as it represents a true renaissance in each of us,” wrote Hurley.

Hurley Remembered as Favorite Teacher

Most of his students say that Hurley was one of their favorite teachers, if not their one favorite. Former students have described him as a “super teacher,” a “cool teacher” and “a teacher who saw potential in everybody.” They also remember his sense of humor and love of music.

Hurley used music in his lessons in ways that always made the subject more meaningful for students. He seemed to have a special gift for making learning fun for teenagers.

“The thing I remember most about his class was it was like a refuge. I always looked forward to his class, even though I didn’t particularly like Social Studies. He was the type of teacher that never talked down to you. He had a lot of respect for the kids. He could get you interested in something you’d never be interested in,” said Kirsten Westfield, who had Hurley for 7th grade Social Studies in 1980.

“He was one of the best teachers who ever taught me. He was more than a teacher. He taught you about life. He taught you to find something you’re good at and to use that to the best of your ability,” said Sue Thibodeau Furtado, who was in Hurley’s English class in 1978.

“He made such an impact on so many of us. Whether it was through education, counseling or coaching. He was a true mentor in every sense of the word,” said former student and friend Peter Figueiredo, who attended the camping trip with Kevin for more than 20 years.

Fellow teachers also speak very highly of Hurley.

“The students were his teachers and it was important to listen to them; learn from them. He heard the voice of each student and brought them together, magically creating that community in which middle school students thrive,” said Denise Turner, Hurley’s friend and colleague, who currently teaches 8th grade English at Seekonk Middle School.

Hurley Moves into School Administration

In 1994, Hurley became Assistant Principal at the middle school.

Then in 1997, former Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan asked Hurley to take a position in the central office and he became Special Education Director for the district.

“Whether you were a special needs student or valedictorian, everyone got the same treatment from Kevin. Everyone was important to him,” said Judy Hurley.

Hurley went on to become Assistant Superintendent while continuing to serve as Special Ed. Director and Curriculum Director as well. He worked in the central office for seven years.

According to Judy, one of Kevin’s greatest personal accomplishments was when he received his doctorate in May 2003.

“He was so proud of that. It meant so much to him,” said Judy.

“He didn’t do it to be called ‘doctor.’ He thought he could help the system even more if he had the degree,” she added.

He earned the degree less than a year before he passed away.

Hurley’s Career Ends the Way it Started

Hurley was diagnosed with cancer in 1998. He lived with the illness for six years.

Judy remembers that her husband “was as gracious about his illness as he was about everything else in life, always thinking first about other people.”

As an administrator in the district, Hurley would send out an invitation each September to all educators to co-teach with them in their classrooms.

Three weeks before he died, he co-taught a class at the middle school. He came home and said to Judy: “That was the best! I wanted to end my career back in the classroom. I taught today.”

Hurley succumbed to a brain tumor on March 26, 2004 and the Seekonk schools were closed for a day in his honor.

Just a few months later, the school department decided to name the middle school in Hurley’s honor. A dedication ceremony was held in May 2004.

Sheehan, Thivierge and Dina Cloutier, a former student and now Seekonk Middle School teacher, and administrators kept the camping trip alive for four years, but participants say something was missing in those final years.

Hurley’s son, Kevin, Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps. Kevin, Jr. is a high school teacher in the South Coast Educational Collaborative.

“It’s comforting to know Kevin’s legacy is continuing,” said Judy Hurley.

A Concert for Kevin

Recently, on April 28 a special concert fundraiser, “Once Again in the Unbroken Circle: A Concert for Kevin,” took place at Seekonk High School. A group of friends, former students and colleagues of Hurley put it together. Committee members were: Peter Figueiredo, Jodie Humphrey, Amanda Parker-Sirois, Colleen O'Halloran and Peter Hoogerziel.

The event was something they had wanted to do for years and they worked on the project for months. It benefitted the Dr. Kevin M. Hurley Memorial Scholarship fund.

The show began with Kevin’s brother, Tom, offering personal reflections and words of thanks from the family. The four-hour concert included performances by several bands and solo artists, most of which were made up of, or included, Seekonk alumni and current Seekonk students and faculty. Many of them performed songs from Hurley’s favorite artists such as the Beatles and Elton John. The concert also included additional personal reflections from family members and friends that included stories, poems and fond memories of Kevin.

“God gave Kevin the talent to teach. He’s the best teacher I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Sheehan, Kevin’s longtime friend and colleague.

The concert was a success with more than 300 people in attendance. Mark Searles, NBC10/WJAR-TV Chief Meteorologist and Seekonk native, was master of ceremonies.

“I think the best thing about the concert is that everyone involved totally understood what this event meant to so many people and gave so much from the heart. So many people reconnected at this concert for the first time in many years,” said Figueiredo.

“The concert meant so much to me. It gave me consolation to know how many people cared about him,” said Judy Hurley.

Judy Hurley summed up what made Kevin special.

“Kevin had the right attitude about life. He was selfless. He gave of himself every day. He was a man of peace,” Judy Hurley said.

If you would like to make a donation to the Hurley scholarship fund, send a check made out to “Dr. Kevin M. Hurley Memorial Scholarship” to: Seekonk Lions Club, P.O. Box 326, Seekonk, MA, 02771. .

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