As U.Va. reunions go, the population of alumni celebrating the 60th anniversary of their degree is an ever-shrinking pool—and those with graduate degrees from the Curry School are even more scarce.
Being a 1951 graduate of the Curry School is only one characteristic making Benjamin “Ben” Franklin Hurt, 92, a rare individual. He is even more exceptional because of his 30-year career as principal of Albemarle High School and the impact he had on the lives of more than 10,000 students who received their diploma from his hands.
Hurt grew up in Cumberland, Virginia, the youngest of five siblings. After attending Hampden-Sydney College, he took a teaching job at Greenwood High School in western Albemarle County. Just over a year later, he was called by Uncle Sam.
“I was very discouraged because it interfered with my teaching,” he says. His stint overseas in an Army tank company also interrupted his master’s degree program. He had begun taking classes from the Curry School—one with U.Va. football standout “Bullet” Bill Dudley.
“When I first started at the Curry school, I would commute back and forth,” he said. “I would stay in the afternoons and do my reading in the library, so I wouldn’t have to do it after I got home at night.”
Hurt still remembers not only the date but the day of the week he was discharged from the Army: Friday, August 15, 1945. Perhaps the memory is so vivid because two days later he met Mariah Addleman, the lovely lady who would become his bride.
A little over a year after returning to Greenwood High, Hurt became principal. He also returned to taking classes at Curry. He remembers many good teachers who honed his skills as an administrator. Two years after finishing his degree in 1951, Hurt was appointed assistant principal in Albemarle County’s newly consolidated high school. He took over as principal in 1954 and spent the remainder of his career in the halls of AHS.
Hurt believed in building relationships with his 858 new high school students just as he had his 400 students at Greenwood. (Yes, he remembers the exact 1954 enrollment.) His priorities were “learning about students and trying to help them any way I could. I would often bring my work home to work on at night,” he adds, “so I would have more time to learn about the students during the day.”
Even though he retired in 1984, Hurt is still known for his acute memory of student names and faces. He once told a Daily Progress reporter that he remembered them all, as well as all of their good qualities. He says he attends several AHS reunions every year.
Last May, AHS alumni gathered for “A Night to Remember” in his honor and presented him with a book filled with memories and expressions of appreciations from former students, faculty, and friends. They paid tribute to an endearing school leader who was soft-spoken, patient, and caring, and who consistently lived out his motto, “Be firm, be fair, and be friendly.”
A rare individual indeed.
by Lynn Bell
Ben and Mariah Hurt have been married for 63 years. Mariah also took several classes at the Curry School. She taught home economics at AHS from 1953 to 1964, until their son J.B. (James Benjamin) was born. She later returned to the classroom, teaching at Henley Middle School from 1977 to 1988.
Ben & Mariah at their wedding in 1948
Ben as AHS principal from a 1950’s era yearbook.