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Mary Dolores Durkin

July 28, 1927 July 6, 2020
Mary Dolores Durkin
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Obituary for Mary Dolores Durkin

Dr. Mary Dolores Durkin, age 92, passed away peacefully on Monday, July 6, 2020, following a brief illness. She was born in Chicago on July 28, 1927, to Nora T. (Deacy) and William H. Durkin. She is preceded in death by her siblings Herbatine (Hartray), Reverend Eugene, William, and Rosemarie (Cargie). She is survived by her sister-in-law, Mary Durkin (Dunne), and three generations of nieces and nephews.
Dr. Durkin was a widely respected educational researcher whose work significantly impacted the ways in which reading is taught in the early elementary grades. She attended the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, where she earned a B.S. degree and completed her Ph.D. in 1957. Her career began at the University of California, Berkley. She then joined the faculty at Columbia University, New York, and ultimately returned to the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, where she served as Professor in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education and Senior Scientist of the Center for the Study of Reading.
Her extensive research on what came to be known as reading comprehension instruction led to the publication of journal articles, book chapters, and multiple textbooks on the topic. Dr. Durkin also served as an educational consultant for the Carnegie Corporation on the project contributing to the development of Sesame Street. She received the prestigious William S. Gray Citation of Merit, awarded to members of the International Literacy Association who have made outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development, and was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame in 1985.
She retired from academia in 1993, but continued to consult on educational textbooks and accept speaking engagements. She was a devoted daughter who spent many years caring for her mother, and a devout Catholic who lived a life of faith. Dr. Durkin attributed her professional success to the intercession of the Holy Spirit, and she considered herself blessed to have been called to a profession which she loved so dearly, “that never, not even for a day, ever felt like work.”
A Mass of celebration will be offered for family members at St. John of the Cross Church in Western Springs on July 13. Burial was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth.


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