Alumnus Produces Documentary on Chicago School

With the ambitious goal of seeking to launch a national conversation about education, alumnus Thomas Hurvis, MBA 62, has added film producer to his resume.

Hurvis, a former ad man and current auto-parts entrepreneur, is co-producer of The Providence Effect, a new documentary about an all-black parochial school, Providence St. Mel, on Chicago’s notoriously rough West Side that has sent 100 percent of its graduates to college for the past thirty years.

The documentary, which opens in select theaters this week and Bay Area theaters Oct. 16, was named best feature-length documentary at the 2009 Omaha Film Festival.

Hurvis is co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Old World Industries, which markets and sells chemical products and automotive parts worldwide. He first became involved with Providence St. Mel through a grant to the school by his family foundation. His belief in the need to improve education and in the approach taken by St. Mel’s led him to serve on the school’s board for ten years — and to produce the documentary.

“When a child comes to St. Mel, he or she knows from day one that the goal is college,” Hurvis says of the K-12 school. “To graduate from high school is one thing. To go on to graduate from college is to gain access to an entirely different life.”

Providence St. Mel Founder and President Paul J. Adams III expects greatness from students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike and enforces a “no foolishness policy.” Parents must make a formal commitment to support their children academically and participate in school activities, including Saturday enrichment classes covering such topics as problem-solving skills and nutrition.

Adams has spread St. Mel’s methods into the public school arena, founding a Chicago South Side charter school called Providence Englewood. Within two years, the school's student test scores have jumped from the 9th percentile to the 50th percentile, according to Hurvis.

The model's success in a public school truly inspires Hurvis, who observes, “Our common interest should be improving the educational system for all of our children.”

Visit the Providence Effect website for more information.