“I have never met anyone as genuinely kind as my grandfather. It was in his blood. Compassion flowed through his body and enveloped everyone within reach.” – Courtney Menendez, daughter of Pat McCurdy, granddaughter of Don McCurdy
We, Don’s children, cannot tell you how many times we have heard these sentiments echoed over the past several days. “Kind,” a character trait that is perhaps undervalued in the world today, is the word used to describe our father over and over again, and we have witnessed its impact on the lives of a diverse assortment of people - family, colleagues, students, friends and even acquaintances.
Our dad, Donald William McCurdy, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and accomplished science educator, died Wednesday, December 12 at 89 years of age.
Alongside his considerable professional accomplishments as a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and former president of the National Science Teachers Association, he leaves behind this legacy of kindness spread over multiple generations. Don imparted a sense of welcome and worth to everyone he met, and many of his former students saw him not only as a guide and mentor, but as a second father.
While working on a personal history, Don recorded this near the beginning: “The Christian faith is the cornerstone of my life. At an early age, I made the decision to accept Christ as my Savior. I have fallen very short of living all of the characteristics of a strong Christian, but the precepts of the Christian faith as described in the Bible have been my guide throughout my life. I can see how the Lord has guided me in making decisions that have made very significant contributions to the quality of my life.”
These words reflect our dad’s humility as well as his faith. He knew he was dependent on God’s work and guidance in his life, and he sought to live as he thought God would want. As part of that obedience, he raised his children in the church, and we are eternally grateful for this legacy.
Born at the start of the Great Depression, Don developed a strong work ethic and a healthy appreciation for the value of a dollar. He was taught by his father, Earl McCurdy, through the eighth grade and went on to graduate from the University of Missouri and earn two Masters’ degrees, as well as a Doctorate in Education.
He served in the military after college, eventually earning the rank of major in the Air Force Reserves.
Dad spent his working career exploring better ways to teach science and investing in science teachers. For him, science and faith were entirely compatible, science and the natural world reflecting the mind and beauty of our Creator. Together with our mom, Mary McCurdy, he sought ways to stimulate curiosity in children, presenting them with questions or problems to which they would be motivated to explore, experiment and research the answers. (Dad referred to it as “cognitive dissonance” – like putting an index card over a full glass of water and turning it upside down without spilling a drop.)
Dad believed in the integration of the various science disciplines with mathematics and the social sciences, as well, and desired that students from elementary school through college be taught real world application as part of their studies. Dad was rewarded for his efforts with numerous grants, fellowships and other awards, most notably, the Wesley C. Meierhenry Distinguished Professorship at the University of Nebraska. Dad continued to be involved in the National Science Teachers Association long after his retirement, serving on committees, consulting and mentoring doctoral students.
While Dad’s loss will be felt by everyone who knew him, the loss is perhaps most acute for those who knew him best: his wife, Carolyn Holmes, who, at his death, described him as the “nicest man she had ever met,” his brother, Ron McCurdy of Houston, Texas, his four children, Cindy Schave (Todd) of Omaha, Nebraska, Marty McCurdy (Chris) of Lincoln, Nebraska, Pat McCurdy (Daisy) of Loveland, Colorado and Barbara Comito (Frank) of Spokane, Washington, his 14 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, as well as his step children and grandchildren.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, Earl and Opal McCurdy, his wife of 39 years and the mother of his children, Mary (Bourn) McCurdy, who shared his love of God and passion for education, and his wife of almost 20 years, Dorothy (Crites) McCurdy.
On behalf of us all, thank you for loving our dad.
Memorial service will be held at Blue Valley Baptist Church, 151st and Antioch, Overland Park, Kansas, 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 15. Graveside service will be held at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska, 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 16.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law,” Galatians 5:22-23.
Dad asked that those who wished to honor his remembrance with a gift donate to a fellowship he set up with the University of Nebraska Foundation. Go to nufoundation.org and search for the Donald McCurdy Fellowship in Science Education Fund, #01146230. Thank you.
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