George M. Shur, who served as general counsel for Northern Illinois University from 1983 until his retirement in 2003, died Sunday, Nov. 25. He was 70.
An avid supporter of education and the community, Shur also served president of the board of education for DeKalb Community Unit School District 428.
A memorial service will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at Altgeld Hall. All are welcome.
“In many ways, NIU was the center of his professional and personal life. It was more than just an employer for him. It was a source for friendship and a fulfillment for him,” said his son, Aaron Shur. “He said frequently that taking the job of legal counsel and moving to DeKalb was one of the best decisions of his life. He loved the academic environment. He loved NIU athletics. He loved going to football and basketball games.”
Prior to his time with NIU, Shur was a partner in the law firm of Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson in Portland, Me., where he specialized in educational, municipal, administrative and trial law. He earned his juris doctorate at the Boston University School of Law.
During his years on the NIU campus, the university never lost a case that went to trial. Shur was equally proud that very few cases actually made it to a courtroom.
Anne Kaplan, vice president of Outreach, Engagement, and Information Technologies at NIU, praised Shur in 2001, when he was honored by his peers across the country for extraordinary service to higher education.
“He has always done an outstanding job representing the interests of the university,” Kaplan said then, “whether by encouraging us to adopt the type of policies and procedures that help avoid lawsuits or representing us in court, where he has always been an aggressive champion of NIU and especially of NIU faculty.”
“He is the epitome of a problem solver and a peace maker, qualities that all good lawyers should have,” James Alfini, former dean of the NIU College of Law, agreed at the time of Shur’s retirement 18 months later. “We are losing a treasure.”
Shur made plenty of friends in the law school, not only among the faculty but among the student body. Shur received the Honorary Law Alumnus Award from the college this June.
“Every year for the past 20 years, I had two students from the law school that that worked in my office as law clerks,” Shur said in 2010. “My success was due, in a large part, to the efforts and abilities of the quality students from that program.”
That year, Shur decided on a $20,000 gift to the College of Law to directly benefit the students.
Named the George M. Shur Student Scholarship, an eligible third-year student who excels in constitutional law courses will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship. Recipients are selected each fall semester over an eight-year span.
Friends who wish to make donations in Shur’s name are asked by his family to contribute to the scholarship fund. Gifts are payable to the NIU Foundation; contact Teri Gensler at (815) 753-1301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shur also served on a number of committees and boards, including the presidency of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and as NACUA’s representative to the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
It was the NACUA that honored Shur in 2001, making him only the 18th person in the 41-year history of the organization to receive its Distinguished Service Award.
Nine years earlier, he had received the Thomas S. Biggs, Jr. Award from Stetson University College of Law in recognition of national contributions and dedicated services to the field of higher education law.
Shur also taught UNIV 101 at NIU and served as assistant executive dean of students of Semester-at-Sea for the spring 2003 semester. After returning from those seaborne duties, he again served NIU, this time as interim director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“I have learned at NIU the importance of allowing, and indeed insisting that, academic decisions be made by academic professionals. This has stood the university in good stead,” Shur said a decade ago. “I am proud of the entire body of service I have been able to provide, working 20 years for a university I love. Northern is a world-class institution.”