UC Berkeley News


International House director Joe Lurie to step down next June
Long-serving overseer of campus's most diverse residence is a man of many constituencies

29 November 2006

Joe Lurie (Jim Block photo)

There have been only three executive directors of International House over the three-quarters of a century since its founding in 1930. Soon a fourth will be named, as current director Joe Lurie, after 19 years of service, steps down in June 2007.

"I want to do something else with my life," Lurie says simply. "It's time to pass the torch. I'm interested in perhaps exploring the foundation world of philanthropy - I've spent a lot of time asking for money, and wouldn't mind helping someone give it away."

Lurie's fiduciary accomplishments at I-House include increasing its annual financial-aid coffers from $30,000 to $550,000 and enhancing the nonprofit organization's financial stability by increasing emergency reserves and restricted funds by a factor of eight.

"At the time I came to work here, in 1988," says Lurie, "International House was raising $90,000 a year. Now we average between $1.5 million and $2 million a year. Why that's important to me - besides the contribution that money makes to the future well-being and strength of this institution - is that it reflects the deeper meaning of people's experiences here and their belief in the power of this place to change lives."

In other operational areas, Lurie facilitated the production of a documentary about I-House that has been shown on more than 40 PBS stations across the U.S., produced several publications that have documented its history, and revived the Festival of Cultures, including the creation of an endowment to help support its continuation in the future. He also oversaw the renovation of 80 percent of the building, improving disability access and seismic safety.

His successor, says Lurie, will face some of the same challenges that he has encountered, as well as some new ones that come with changing times. His or her biggest challenge, though, will be "the number of constituencies that this position interacts with. There are 600 residents living here from many countries. There are alumni around the world who are still involved with I-House. There's an influential, caring, committed board of directors. There's the campus community and many relations I-House has with its colleagues on the campus. There's the local community, whose members participate in our programs. There's a long-serving staff. There are a multiplicity of relationships - challenging but in the final analysis very enriching."

Lurie says the highlight of his tenure has been "to see so many young people be transformed by the simple act of living with people who are different. It's been an enormous source of inspiration and satisfaction." Recalling a student resident who wrote some years ago that "I no longer live in I-House but I-House will always live in me," Lurie vows that he and his wife, Donna, will stay in touch with future and past residents after he steps down. "I may no longer work at I-House," he smiles, "but it will always work in me."

Lurie will be honored at a celebration event next spring. Meanwhile, a nationwide search to identify his successor is now underway.