The Jurica Brothers
Fr. Hilary Jurica O.S.B. was born in Czechoslovakia in 1892 and immigrated to the United States at a very young age. His relationship with the St. Procopius community began with his attending St. Procopius Academy. He went on to earn his B.A. from St. Procopius College and his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in 1922.
The 1920's was an era of high academic aspiration for St. Procopius College. The college was looking to stengthen its academic standing but was lacking the qualified professors to do so.
The return of Fr. Hilary to SPC in the 1920's was a turning point for the college's natural science program. Several other monks followed suit with doctoral studies in other fields, including his younger brother Edmund.
Fr. Ted Suchy described him as the "grandfatherly" type and that "He had a big smile and usually seemed cheerful. He was an outgoing person and quite forward--if he wanted something, he pushed and prodded 'til he got what he wanted."
Fr. Edmund Jurica O.S.B. was Fr. Hilary's younger brother. He was born in Cloverdale, Illinois in 1900. Like his older brother, he graduated from both St. Procopius Academy and St. Procopius College. He also earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1926.
Together, the two brothers helped overhaul the biology department at SPC. Fr. Hilary specialized in botany and Fr. Edmund in zoology. Both brothers taught numerous biology related courses.
Fr. Ted wrote about Fr. Edmund as well. "Unlike his brother, Fr. Edmund was quiet, reserved and a gentle person. But he was probably the more intelligent of the two brothers." Fr. Ted noted that the former Abbot Daniel said "if he had the money and resources, he could have found a cure for cancer."
As professors at SPC, one of the first things the brothers did was gather an extensive collection of animal specimens to use for classroom instruction. Both Jurica brothers displayed many of their specimens in their classroom.
In his years as an educator, Fr. Hilary established a network of contacts throughout the many museums, universities, and scientific organizations throughout the Chicago land area. It is through these connections that he was able to obtain so many specimens for the Jurica brother's collection.
Both brothers taught in the southwest corner of Ben Hall on the second floor. Many specimens were spread throughout their classrooms. Fr. Theodore Suchy noted that almost half of Fr. Hilary's classroom was jam-packed with stuffed animals. Fr. Hilary aspired to one day display the collection in a museum exhibit.
Fr. Hilary and Fr. Edmund were innovators of the "audio-visual" method of instruction. With the help of some of their most trusted students, they created a series of charts, slides, models, and movies.
Their most infamous creations were the series of biology flip charts they made in conjunction with their students. Fr. Ted noted that the brothers would often make the initial rough drawing and then their more artistic students would create an improved model based off the initial drawing.
The charts were eventually published by the Nystrum Company of Chicago. The brothers used the revenue to fund their growing collection of specimens and materials for their classrooms. Many of these charts are still available for purchase.
Unfortunately for the brothers, Archbishop Daniel Kucera O.S.B. (6th and 8th President of the college) mandated that the royalties from the flip charts be directed to the school. While very discouraged by the turn of events, the brothers did not give up on building their collection.
The efforts of collecting animal specimens throughout their many decades as educators would eventually lead to the creation of the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum.
Until that time, the numerous specimens that the brothers had stuffed and prepared themselves would sit in storage at Benedictine Hall or be on display in their classroom.