The halls of DMU are a little quieter since the retirement of the most popular man on campus, Duane Murray, M.P.A. For nearly 24 years, the gregarious Murray strolled the campus, flashing his big smile and striking up a conversation with anyone who came in his path.
“Duane’s never met a stranger, I don’t think,” remarks Gary Hoff, D.O., associate professor of behavioral medicine. “His greatest success is his rapport with people. He’s the kind of asset that we’re going to miss.”
Those people skills explain how a trained respiratory therapist spent most of his career working with students and alumni. Murray joined the University in 1990 as clinic administrator and served in a variety of roles in his two-plus decades, bouncing from admissions and student advising to development to alumni relations.
“Every position I had was very similar; I dealt with people,” says Murray. “All of it was in the management arena. My forte was building relationships with people and being a servant to the institution. If anything, that’s what I’d like my legacy to be.”
“I came to Des Moines as a total stranger. And I ended up with a huge family.”
But there is much more to Murray’s legacy than being a people person. He’s had a major impact on the University’s minority students. An adviser to multicultural and international students for a decade, Murray crisscrossed the country to recruit minority students. Once they were on campus, he made sure they felt at home at DMU.
“I never wanted to see a student feeling like they’re all alone. If I saw that, I’d talk to them. Hopefully, I’ve made a positive impact on the minority culture that has come through here,” he says.
“Even though Duane hasn’t been involved with minority students for years, he still looks out for them,” adds Hoff. “A large percentage know who he is and stop by to talk to him. He also keeps in touch with minority graduates, just to talk and catch up.”
Murray’s impact on multicultural students is not limited to those who came through during his career; it will be felt for years to come. He developed DMU’s first summer institute, a precursor to the current Health P.A.S.S. program, which brings a dozen minority students to campus every summer to experience medical school. He helped students start the International Medicine Club to promote cultural awareness, celebrate diversity and bring students of all backgrounds together to learn from each other. Murray was also instrumental in creating the Glanton Minority Scholarship, which has awarded $766,000 in scholarships to nearly 30 students over the past 10 years.
Murray cherishes all the relationships he’s built over the years, but he will miss the students the most. The day-to-day interactions with students and alumni were always the best part of his many jobs. It is these relationships that will be Murray’s legacy and that he will take with him into retirement.
“The first six months here, my family was still in Kansas City. I didn’t know anybody,” he says. “I came to Des Moines as a total stranger. And I ended up with a huge family.”