Former president Murray dies at 82

Courtesy Photo. John Murray, 82, died Wednesday.
Courtesy Photo. John Murray, 82, died Wednesday.
Courtesy Photo. John Murray, 82, died Wednesday.

By Julian Routh | News Editor

Former Duquesne president John R. Murray Jr., who led the University into the 21st century, died Wednesday at age 82.

Murray, chancellor and law professor, served as Duquesne’s first lay president from 1988 to 2001. During that time, he oversaw an increase in enrollment at the University, a median SAT score increase of 50 points, a budget surplus and several building and equipment upgrades.

He was found collapsed in his home Wednesday, according to Corinne Burns, board member for Duquesne’s Sister Thea Bowman Foundation. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said he later died of natural causes at UPMC Shadyside hospital.

Murray was a “transformative figure” at Duquesne and in the law community, law school Dean Ken Gormley said. He won numerous awards for his teaching and law work, including the 2013 lifetime achievement award from the International Conference of Professors of Contract Law.

Gormley said Murray was “the nation’s leading contract scholar.” His books are used in schools and courts across the country.

“Duquesne — and Pittsburgh — lost an incredibly talented leader, teacher, scholar, author and lawyer today,” University President Charles Dougherty said in a statement. “His contributions here at Duquesne, as well as his service on numerous government, charitable and legal boards and committees have improved the lives of many over the course of his remarkable career.”

After earning his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Murray took a job at Duquesne in 1959. He left in 1964 to teach at the Villanova University School of Law.

In 1965, he briefly returned to Duquesne for a stint as acting dean, before starting a 20-year venture at the University of Pittsburgh as professor and law school dean.

As law dean at Pitt, Murray hired Gormley in 1982, laying the groundwork for a three-decade long professional relationship.

“Throughout my career, he has been a mentor and adviser to me, and I have turned to him many times,” Gormley said. “I never could have had any of the successes I have had as dean and in my career as a lawyer without the help of John Murray.”

Murray stepped down as Duquesne president in 2001 after 13 years in the position. He was named chancellor shortly after and returned to the classroom to teach.

“John was always the busiest person in the building, but he was always the one who had the most time for the students,” Gormley said.

Murray is survived by his four children – Bruce Murray, Susan Cabot, Timothy Murray and Jacqueline Murray – and his wife, Marjorie Smuts Murray.
Kaye Burnet contributed reporting.