Laura Meade Kirk '80, reporter, Providence Journal
Don Murray has always been, and always will be, my inspiration. I loved him from the moment I walked into my first newswriting class in the fall of 1978. He was everything I imagined a college professor would be -- complete with white hair, beard, and cardigan sweater. I was scared to death of him, of course. But I also was immediately smitten by his myriad stories of life in the news business. I'd come to UNH to study sports communication -- my dream job was to be a broadcaster for the Celtics or Red Sox -- but Don showed me that news was the place to be.
My sophomore year, Don had given all of us students his home number and encouraged us to call him anytime, day or night. I was working as a volunteer with the Durham/UNH Ambulance Corps. One night, my pager went off with word of a "man down" near the dorm next door. I wasn't on call, but since I was right there, I raced out to see if I could help. Turns out, this man wasn't only unconscious -- he'd been beaten to death.
Since there clearly was no rescue involved, and therefore nothing for me to do as an ambulance volunteer, I donned my other hat -- budding reporter for the campus newspaper. This obviously was big news; one of the cops at the scene said it was the first-ever murder on the UNH campus. So I grabbed my pen and started taking notes -- the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, as best we knew them. I talked to the cops and other rescuers, as well as nearby witnesses. This was clearly a big story -- and I had the exclusive. But what should I do with it?
I thought of Don and his "anytime, day or night" invitation, and I called him right then -- at 1:30 in the morning. He recommended that I call the Boston Globe. I called in the story I'd scratched out in my notebook, and it appeared in the paper that very morning -- under the byline of the guy who'd taken my call. But I received a check a few days later, and I still have the stub. It says, "$100, Murder."
I wrote dozens of stories about that case for several papers. My reporting eventually landed me in court when the lawyer for the student charged with the murder wanted my notes and names of confidential sources. I was a 20-year-old kid when I appeared before the state Supreme Court in a case that could have landed me in jail, but instead resulted in a precedent protecting confidential sources, one that still stands in New Hampshire law. After this experience, I gave up my sports dream; I knew that news was where I wanted to be. And I thank God that Don led me here.
Rosalie Davis-Payette '79, freelance writer
I've often thought how appropriate it was that Don Murray's favorite quotation "Nulla Dies Sine Linea" was from the Greek poet Horace. The ancients believed you learned at the foot of the master, an apt metaphor for Don's teaching style. There were no artificial boundaries, but there were clear roles. His was to be the disciplined and caring teacher, expert at his craft and generous in sharing it -- too rare a combination.
Just two brief anecdotes. First, I recall that Don kept office hours through the 1978 blizzard. Second, I had a part-time job one semester typing a manuscript of some of his quotations on the writing process. Many were from artists and musicians as well as writers. He was interested in many creative pursuits, and of course a "line" didn't have to be written; it might also be drawn, played on a musical instrument, or spoken in a play.
Don Murray's legacy for me is the joy and consolation of what he called his twice-lived life. All experience may be given some kind of grace note, or saving grace, through writing of it.
Allen Lessels '76, sportswriter, in The Union Leader, Jan. 5, 2007
Hockey games won't be quite the same at the Whittemore Center. Don Murray has left the building. Murray, the writing guru who started the journalism program at UNH, died last Saturday at the age of 82. Ever since the Whittemore Center opened just over a decade ago, Murray cheered the Wildcats on from Section 104, Row O, Seats 15 and 16, directly in front of Dick Osborne and Pete Webster of the UNH Sports Network. For years before that, Murray and his late wife, Minnie Mae, sat in the stands at Snively Arena and he did his unique and entertaining chortle-whistle from beside the radio broadcasters. Murray was in the house for UNH's last home game, a 2-0 win over St. Lawrence on Dec. 8. He will be there still, in smiles and positive spirit.
Lou Ureneck '72, chair of the journalism department at Boston University, on legacy.com
Don Murray came into my life as I was coming to consciousness as a student and writer. Without him, I doubt there would have been a journalism career for me. I learned basically one thing from him: There's joy in the work, and the harder you work, the fuller the joy. He was a complicated man, and not transparent despite all the writing. It was my good fortune to meet him at age 19, nearly 40 years ago. There have many days without lines since then, but never a sense that there was any better way to live than through writing.
Kate Lincoln '80 (master's), New Mexico
Don Murray was a mentor to many as he was to me. A divorced, single parent, I met him in the '70s, where he helped shape my writing, then later in the UNH Writing Program, both as student and a colleague. Over the years he never hesitated to support my own teaching of writing. I was lucky enough to have had lunch with him this fall and to thank him for his unwavering encouragement over the years. I was humbled when he said it was not difficult to encourage those with talent. I will remember him, not only as an honest critic, a straight-to-facts writer, but also a large and lovely human being.
Jon Kellogg '70, editor of the Waterbury, Conn., Republican-American, on legacy.com
Somehow I managed to get through UNH without ever actually taking a journalism course from Don, but he remains -- to this minute -- the most influential man in my life. He helped me to learn how to think on my feet. He opened the joy of writing to me. He insisted, in whatever I was doing, that I get to the point. He and Minnie Mae stood by me in just about every life crisis I have faced from my teens to middle age. I will miss him, but his love of life and work and his sense of clarity are so thoroughly implanted in my soul that he will stay with me all the days of my life.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell '82, Boston Globe sportswriter, on legacy.com
I was fortunate to meet Don Murray after I transferred from Northeastern to UNH in 1979 when my roommate and friend, Beth MacDonald, recommended his newswriting class. At the time, I thought I was more interested in TV journalism than print, so Don helped me get an internship at "Good Morning America" in the booking department under the late, great Michael Kelly. When I got back to school, he asked me how I liked it. I told him I liked it well enough to know I wanted to go back to print. He was a treasured mentor and friend who helped me land my first full-time job in the business at the Gloucester Times. He was one of the most generous, kind souls I ever met. He and Minnie Mae were the model of what a marriage, a partnership, should be. He will be missed every day by those of us he touched and he will live on in the writing and spirit of everyone lucky enough to have known him.
Warren Watson '73, journalism teacher at Ball State University, Indiana, on legacy.com
Don Murray was a teacher and a mentor, a special friend who guided me through his journalism classes and into a lifelong journalism career. He befriended my father -- like him a World War II veteran -- and they shared stories at the Dover A & P, where my father stood guard over the vegetables as produce manager. Later he learned of me and encouraged me to try newspapers and writing as an undergrad at UNH in the late '60s and early '70s. Damn, his classes were hard, but he instilled a spirit of continuous improvement in all that I did. He became a beacon to me for the next 35 years. Rarely did a I make an important decision without consulting my lifelong mentor.
Laura Flynn McCarthy '81, freelance writer. Excerpt of her comments on legacy.com
Don Murray was the best teacher I ever had, and he is the main reason I ended up having a career in writing. He taught by example, by writing every day of his life. (It was remarkable, though not surprising, that he submitted his last column to The Boston Globe on Friday, December 29, the day before he died. His professionalism and passion for writing were unsurpassed.) He taught by being a perpetual student himself, learning as much as he could about his students, and sharing with them all that he continuously learned about the craft of writing. Most important, he taught in the way a good parent teaches, by believing in his students, sincerely caring about them, praising them for what they did well while gently nudging them toward ways to improve their work, and getting them to think for themselves and work hard. His students wanted to succeed because he assured them that they could succeed.
Ron Winslow '71, senior medical writer for the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt of his comments on legacy.com
Don didn’t so much teach as he made it possible for us to learn -- about writing, journalism and ourselves. He treated us as peers. After all, as his last column attests, he was still a student of writing himself – and learning about himself -- right to the end. I was fortunate not only to spend time in Don’s classroom, but later, to work with him for five years as a colleague teaching journalism at UNH, and to reconnect with Minnie Mae as well. Nearly 24 years ago, I left teaching to return to the newsroom. The technology is far different these days, but the values Don Murray instilled in that classroom endure. His commitment to the daily process of turning words into sentences, and sentences into stories, reflected a respect for the work that continues to be a source of inspiration that is with me every day.
Wayne Worcester ’71, professor of journalism at UConn, on legacy.com
I mark the pivot of my life according to B.D.— the dark years Before Don, when writing was still some mystical secret held only by the ancients, and A.D. — the years After Don, when he showed me that writing was a skill to be rigorously practiced, thoroughly enjoyed and proudly shared. I loved, respected and admired him. His importance in my life is inexpressible; his impact on the teaching of writing, immeasurable. He was the most generous man I have ever known. If only he had left behind the words I need right now. "Thanks, Don," just does not cover
Gladys Pearce MacDonald, Virginia
I was lucky enough to participate in Don's first journalism classes in 1963. I still recall the return of my first assignment dripping with red as if a soldier returning from battle needing serious surgery. Don believed if we put in the time and effort to write, then we deserved the best advice for improvement. He was indeed devoted to every serious student lucky enough to share his life. Yes, he shared not only his wisdom but his life as well. We were welcomed in his home--I still remember his office after nearly forty-five years. He also made himself available for anyone who needed assistance, encouragement, or advice about school or personal dilemmas. When I was kept in the infirmary with mono, he came to visit and teach me one-on-one. When I had an emergency appendectomy, he was there to assure me I'd not suffer a penalty for late work. Don became an email friend over the years.
How do you thank someone who presents each of his students with a love of language and the power of words? His former students thank him by passing this love of language and learning on to our own students or readers. I believe Don is looking down and smiling at all of us, the fruits of his labors. Thanks, Don!
Joe Battenfeld '83, political editor for Fox 25 News Boston, on legacy.com
Don Murray was, simply, the best damn writer I've ever seen. He encouraged me to get into journalism as my adviser at UNH and taught me that writing is not easy -- and not just an academic exercise. He wrote for the readers, which I guess is why I was a devoted reader of his columns, even years after I left UNH. I wish I could have sent this to Professor Murray while he was still around -- although he probably would have made a few polite editing suggestions.
George Manlove on mainetoday.com
I remember Don’s vibrancy and enthusiasm during student-professor discussions. We discussed the elements of writing as well as life. For Don, there seemed to be no separation. A large man, a gentle fatherly figure with his full white beard and infectious grin, Don would sit back in his chair and listen fixedly to students’ discussions of life inside and outside the classroom. He was a motivator. I always left our conferences fully charged and with a freshly polished magnifying glass. The “Murrayism” I would ascribe to this former mentor is not “Seize the day,” but “Seize the detail.” In the vernacular of someone we know in Washington D.C., Don Murray was, to me, the consummate “illuminator” through his writing and teaching.
Don Murray Home
News and Writings
TEN PIECES about Don by UNH alumni
Pieces by other friends
Alumni writing for the Web
Don on the air
Donald Murray Visiting Journalist Program
Donald Murray Outstanding Journalism Award from the New Hampshire Writers Project
Don Murray Endowed Journalism Fund