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Skidmore Retirees
 

Edward J. Murray

Edward J. Murray

February 23, 2006

Edward J. Murray, supervisor of transportation and grounds from 1991 to 1998, died Feb. 22, 2006, at home.  He was 69.

Born April 12, 1936, in Troy, Ed was the son of William P. and Gertrude O’Connor Murray.  He was a graduate of Catholic Central High School and the State University of New York College at Cobleskill, where he earned a degree in agronomy.

An experienced landscape gardener, Ed owned and operated several local nursery and landscape businesses, including the Cloverleaf Nurseries in Menands, which he founded in 1962 and which did commercial and residential landscaping; and Brookside Nursery, which he founded in 1975 in Ballston Spa and built into a thriving business before passing ownership to his two sons in 1989.

Bored with retirement, Ed joined the Skidmore staff in 1991 and set about to transform the campus with colorful gardens near the entrances to buildings, numerous stamp-sized planted areas in surprising locations, and a revived Case Green, which had endured significant pedestrian and construction traffic. That project was especially challenging because of the soil compaction and the need to correct the green’s pH balance. The project included enlarging walkways to improve access for people with disabilities, developing a better drainage system, and seeding with hardy grasses.

Murray and his crew worked on other campus sites to improve their appearance. These included South Park, the athletic fields, and numerous small gardens throughout the campus. He also was instrumental in working on the Victorian garden behind the Surrey. Murray and his crew cleared brush and undergrowth from the area, planted roses, and restored and enhanced a pond first built there in 1911.

While landscape matters were a priority, there were not Ed’s only Skidmore responsibility. He also oversaw the maintenance of the College’s roads and parking lots.  Jessie Oliver, a member of the grounds staff for 30 years, recalled Ed’s tenacity and willingness to do things the old-fashioned way.  Said Jessie, “The harder the landscape problem, the more Ed loved to work to try and solve it. He grew everything from seed, and loved the chance to make things grow.” Oliver said that Ed took special pride in having both a tomato plant and a rose bush named after him. “He was a great boss—and was good at letting workers figure out ways to get the job done. He was just an all-around nice guy.”

Christopher Gregory ’94, a stonemason who got his start while working for Ed during the summer at Skidmore, was grateful that “Ed took me under his wing.” Added Gregory, “Ed gave me opportunities to work on campus projects—the stone walls and the bridge at the southern edge of campus—and was a mentor to me.  He transformed the campus through the physical manifestation of his work and by mentoring students and staff.  But beyond the campus landscape, Ed’s legacy is the men and women who have skills and a passion for growing things and for working with their hands, because they worked with him.”

In 1998 the College honored Ed by naming the area south of Haupt Pond Murray Park.  The park’s centerpiece is the handcrafted footbridge built by Gregory.

Ed is survived by his wife of 46 years, Margaret (McLaughlin) Murray of Saratoga Springs; daughters Colleen Murray of Saratoga Springs and Heather (David) Azzolino of Atlanta, Ga.; sons Ian (Tracy) of Schuylerville and Bruce (Kelly) of Stillwater; seven grandchildren; two brothers and two sisters; and many nieces and nephews.

 

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