The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award was established in 2014 through a generous gift from Dr. Ronald Arky, Daniel D. Federman Professor of Medicine and Medical Education at the Harvard Medical School.
The award is named in memory of Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz, a leader in the movement to provide services and support for children with disabilities and their families and the founding President of the Arc of Massachusetts.
Learn more about Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz through this video and the below biography.
Pearl Birnbaum (1907-1993), a graduate of Radcliffe College, was wife to David Hurwitz (physician, professor, and researcher) and mother of four who had a broad vision of how she wanted to impact the world. One of her sons was born with intellectual disabilities and she quickly became a leader in the movement to provide services and support for children with disabilities and their families, especially in the Massachusetts area.
Pearl’s accomplishments were many. She was the founding President of the Arc of Massachusetts. In the 1950s, she was appointed by two governors in Massachusetts to a special legislative commission where her advocacy resulted in a state-wide requirement for public education for children with developmental disabilities. (Harvard Medical School, Volume 3, 2001; Radcliffe Quarterly February, 1957)
Pearl was a true inspiration. Her grandson and former board member of the Gold Foundation, Jonathan Seelig, remembers stories of how she sought to improve the world through education, philanthropy, leadership and activism. She was a champion for the needs of vulnerable populations and fought for legislation to protect and bolster the lives of individuals who by virtue of physical, social or economic circumstances, required services.
In her poignant writing about the experience raising and advocating for her Stephen, who had developmental disabilities, she wrote, “…we know that if our way of life is to survive, every individual must be counted as an individual and accorded his place in the sun…..For every person who is discounted, by so much do we allow for the spread of discontent; for every person whom we help to attain his rightful stature, by so much do we prevent the spread of strife.” (Harvard Medical School, Volume 3, 2001; Radcliffe Quarterly February, 1957)
Read Pearl Hurwitz’s inspiring essay, originally published in the 1957 Radcliffe Quarterly: The mentally retarded child — changing community attitudes.