Jane Pugh, AB’47

Invested with meaning

Jane Pugh’s diligent investments gave her the resources to give back to the College.

Jane Pugh, AB’47, was inspired by the grandfather she never met: Florin Harrison Pugh. In 1902 the 38-year-old former schoolteacher and blacksmith earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College, then a University of Chicago affiliate.

Although he died two years before Jane was born in 1927, she ensured his name would live on in a UChicago College professorship arranged in her bequest.

The only child of an electrical-engineer father and plant-pathologist mother, Pugh grew up in suburban Downers Grove, Illinois. Enrolling in the Hutchins College before finishing high school, Pugh and her Downers Grove neighbor, Theodora “Teddy” Kras, AB’47, were roommates in Kelly Hall. “Jane valued friendships,” says Kras, “and everyone who lived together in Kelly Hall remained her closest friends.”

After graduation Pugh, who donated her course materials to Special Collections in 1993, worked for the City of Chicago, preparing civil service examinations for the Department of Personnel. She spent nearly five decades at City Hall before retiring in 1998.

In retirement Pugh stayed in Hyde Park and made weekend trips to her childhood home, which she had cared for after her mother’s death. A director of the Downers Grove Historical Society, she also tended to her garden there, at times so engrossed that when friends arrived to pick her up, Kras recalls, she was still pulling weeds and had to rush to get ready.

For 45 years straight, Pugh made gifts to the University, often supporting the Dean’s Fund for Student Life at the College, the Renaissance Society, pediatric AIDS programs, and the Women’s Board. In 1994 she received an Alumni Service Citation, recognizing her decades of service to alumni programs, including chairing her 40th and 45th Reunions.

Pugh often remarked that children of her generation were taught to save. She not only began saving early but also took an interest in stocks. She invested in assets in Mexico when interest rates were high and set up a commodities account with a friend when women were not allowed to own one.

At the suggestion of Mary Petrie, MBA’56, who began her University career as a secretary and retired as chief investment officer, in the early ’70s Pugh invested in the Acorn Fund, which became a top-performing small-cap growth fund. In the ’90s she joined an alumni investment discussion group organized by Kay Nelson, AM’69, PhD’78. The group met at Cobb Hall and featured speakers such as Ralph Wanger, who managed the Acorn Fund.

Decades before her August 2018 death, Pugh arranged a bequest to fund the Florin Harrison Pugh Professorship in the College, to be awarded “in the philosophical disciplines.” The remainder of the estate went to an endowed fund to support teaching in the College.

“Jane’s enthusiasm and dedication to the College was rooted in our traditions of general education and the Core curriculum,” says College dean John W. Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75. “She understood the deep value of liberal education, not only as a source of personal, intellectual enrichment but also as the preparation of students for civic leadership.”

“It’s important for those who benefit from Jane’s generosity to know how much the University meant to her,” agrees Sue Stealey, a neighbor from Downers Grove. At Friday night dinners with friends, says Stealey, Pugh referred to University-themed books by Boyer and others. “Even 70-plus years after she graduated, Jane was aware of the school calendar and events happening all over campus.”

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