A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz

ernie_kurtz_egyptI was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

This imprint though lies far deeper than the legacy of his five books and numerous articles.  Ernie’s involvements in the field span his teaching at innumerable addiction summer schools and conferences (from Rutgers to the University of Chicago) and his mentoring untold numbers of individuals, as well as in his research collaborations focused on the multiple pathways of addiction recovery.’

Hazelden wrote the following biography:

‘Ernie Kurtz received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University in 1978. His doctoral dissertation was published as the book Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Since then, he has published The Spirituality of Imperfection, and the booklet Shame and Guilt: Characteristics of the Dependency Cycle. He has also published a number of articles, both scholarly and popular, on topics related to his interests and has lectured nationally and internationally on subjects related to the academic study of spirituality. Some of his articles have been published in the 1999 book, The Collected Ernie Kurtz.

Dr. Kurtz taught American History and the History of Religion in America at the University of Georgia and Loyola University of Chicago. From 1978 to 1997, he served on the faculty of the Rutgers University Summer School of Alcohol Studies and from 1987 to 1997 as a lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

After a brief stint as Director of Research and Education at Guest House, then an alcoholism treatment facility for Catholic clergy, Ernie retired to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began taking classes in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.

He continued to travel widely offering presentations until late 1997, when a botched medical procedure led to spinal surgery that only partially restored his ability to stand and walk.

Noting that “it is ironic that I now walk like a drunk,” Ernie devoted his remaining time to the intricacies and possibilities of electronic research in this field. Ernie passed away January 2015.’

Bill White recently developed an Ernie Kurtz section of his website, which is essential viewing. I leave you with a film that Bill and Ernie produced. It’s an important legacy.

RIP Ernie Kurtz

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