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Caring Communicator

Connecting with others has been a lifelong theme for Ron Hurt ’67

One of Ron Hurt ’67’s more formative Swarthmore experiences didn’t happen in a College course.

Along with many other students in those tumultuous Vietnam War-era days, Hurt took time o to contemplate his future, landing what he called an “extraordinary” job on campus teaching a class of emotionally disturbed high school students not much younger than himself. (A special branch of the Delaware County public school system opened in one of the Mary Lyon buildings.)

“I felt such a close connection with the kids,” he says, gratified by his ability to reach his students.

The Ohio native eventually returned to his political science studies, the debate team, and the Phoenix before graduating in 1970, giving a few anti-war speeches at local churches along the way.

Over the subsequent half-century, Hurt built a career in communications. A reporter for small newspapers in Eugene, Ore., and Media, Pa., then an editor at the University of Pennsylvania’s publications office, Hurt later joined the marketing, advertising, and public relations departments at large corporate offices, including CIGNA, Metlife, and Prudential, where he was also responsible for video production.

When Hurt retired in 2012, he didn’t know another communications project was in his future: His wife, Pam, a long-time nursing-home volunteer, proposed creating comforting video programming for “the isolated elderly”—who may be struggling with loneliness as well as health and cognitive issues—as an alternative to commercial television. 

Ron was eager to help, and the couple founded a non-profit, ElderReach. Envisioning a kind of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for the elderly,” they consulted with Ron’s friend Sam Newbury ’67, who produced that show for 30 years. Today, Hurt works with his wife full time on this mission, writing and producing demonstration videos and raising funds to serve this burgeoning, vulnerable, and often low-income population.

“I’m delighted to be able to make a contribution to an underserved and generally neglected group of people,” says Hurt. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”