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In Loving Memory of Hugo Hollerorth (1925-2019)

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 5, 2019
We our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Dr. Hugo “Holly” J. Hollerorth, who died on September 22, 2019, at the age of 94.

Hugo was born on June 6, 1925 in Jefferson City, MO to Hugo John and Rose Johannah. He graduated from Northwestern University, IL in 1946 with a Bachelor of Science in business, following which he received his two degrees - a Bachelor of Divinity in 1949, and a Master of Arts in 1965, both from the University of Chicago, IL. In 1985, Hugo earned his Doctor of Education (EdD) from New York University. Later in 2005, Meadville Lombard Theological School awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

Rev. Dr. Hollerorth was ordained in 1949. He served as a Minister of Education at the Central Unitarian Church of Paramus, NJ, from 1959 to 1961; and as an Associate Professor of Religious Education at St. Lawrence School (Universalist), Canton, NY, from 1961 to 1965. Then in 1965, he joined the UUA as the Director of Curriculum Development, where he served until 1980. During this tenure, Rev. Dr. Hollerorth developed educational programs for children, youth and adults for use in Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships across the continent. He oversaw the work of development teams and authors, field testing programs prior to publication, editorial work, interpreting programs to local societies, and training teachers in their use.

Rev. Dr. Hollerorth believed that the existing curricula did not “address the human situation within which children and youth will be and are living,” and launched a new curriculum series based on the discovery learning method. He wrote that this method was “grounded in the conviction that the most effective learning occurs when children have an opportunity to intuit principles for themselves from concrete experiences in their daily lives.” To aid with the discovery learning process, the curriculum “kits,” included visuals, books, filmstrips, audiotapes, puzzles, illustrations, games, music, and other materials and strategies to bring the curricula alive for children and youth with diverse learning styles. The kits whose development he oversaw included Decision Making (1968), Man the Meaning Maker (1969), Man the Culture Builder (1971), Human Heritage (1972), Person to Person Communication (1972), The Adventures of God’s Folk (1974), and Haunting House (1974, written by his wife, Barbara Hollerorth). Rev. Dr. Hollerorth was author of Freedom and Responsibility (1969); and co-author of Our Experiencing, Believing, and Celebrating (1979). The curriculum vision was to enable children and youth to, in his words, “evolve a life-enhancing orientation to the world.”

In the late 1960s, Rev. Dr. Hollerorth shepherded the creation and publication of About Your Sexuality (AYS), a sexuality education curriculum kit by Deryck Calderwood for junior high youth (grades 7 and 8). Created in response to requests from parents and religious educators for materials that would help young people navigate this area against the backdrop of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, AYS included topics which other secular curricula did not. In the curriculum description, Hollerorth wrote: “Employing the full range of human knowledge about human sexuality; creative interaction with each other in a relationship of freedom, love, sensitivity, and so on; and diversity of thought, young people attempt to evolve a life-enhancing orientation to their sexuality.” About Your Sexuality, revised and supplemented over the years, remained in print until it was replaced by Our Whole Lives. The AYS curriculum laid the groundwork for what is a vital piece of Unitarian Universalist faith development to this day.

For their contribution to Unitarian Universalist religious education, Hugo and Barbara received the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education at the 1976 UUA General Assembly in Claremont, CA.

In addition to his ministry, Hugo belonged to several community organizations. From 1975 to 1980, he performed as a workshop leader in human sexuality for Boston Family Service and several private secondary schools. He was a member of the HEW Federal Government Task Force on Education for Human Sexuality (1977); volunteer (1977-1978) and a Chairperson (1979) for the University of Chicago Alumni Fund, Greater Boston Area. Furthermore, he functioned as a Health Curriculum Specialist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. Beginning in the 1990’s, Hugo was involved with the Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council. He first served on the staff, then after retiring, he served on the Board. While on the Board he wrote “Building a Culture of Care: The Ongoing Saga of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council”, which looks at the origins, history and evolution of the organization. Hugo served the military and was an honorable discharge recipient. In his spare time, Hugo enjoyed travel, home decorating, biking, politics, and films.

After Hugo’s passing, Mr. Barb Greve, UUA Co-Moderator and a religious educator, wrote of him:
“Holly (as he preferred to be called) was a dear friend and a mentor. I grew up in the congregation he chose as his religious home (First Parish in Framingham, MA). Holly was a shy and quiet person, though in the right setting he would open up like a beautiful flower. This past summer I had the great delight to spend some time with him after services at church. He reflected on the nearing end of his own life and his amazement at how much his body and abilities were changing. His mind was quick as ever. He shared his joy and pride at helping bring AYS into being and loved that OWL was a progressive extension of that work. He marveled at how much had changed in his lifetime and how much had stayed the same. He was a dedicated steward of our faith and will be sorely missed by many.”

Hugo is survived by his daughter Rachel Buerlen; and his grandchildren Holly Buerlen, Jason Buerlen, and Nicole Hunter, and his great grandchildren Kairi and Dominic.

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