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Life beyond the laboratory

A bequest from a mentor of students reveals a priceless passion for young scientists

by Fred Devries | September 22, 2014

Life beyond the laboratory
The late Marion Murray, a former laboratory technologist in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the 1960s and '70s, left a $1.6-million bequest to establish student scholarships at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.

Tucked in a lab within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology are two green and grey cabinets, each filled with small drawers. The door fronts are labelled for easy reference, much like a library card catalogue.

The existence of these cabinets at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry seems unremarkable, until a drawer is pulled open. Inside are miniscule vials packed in cardboard slots, every glass tube containing a type of bacteria – from E. coli to Listeria – ‘freeze dried’ for future use. On a nearby shelf sits a row of binders in which handwritten notes document the what, when and where of every vial in the cabinet.

Dated from the 1960s and 70s, these vials represent the meticulous work of their creator, the late Marion Murray. She recorded and stored the bacteria collection in the same way she connected with students and researchers when she worked at Western as a laboratory technologist for the department – with care, humility and expertise.

“Marion created these vials, which can preserve the bacteria for 60 to 70 years, with attention to detail and with incredible skill,” says Susan Koval, MSc’70, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, pointing out the typewritten labels on each vial. “She was an amazing technician, but also a great supporter of students and young scientists, never missing an opportunity to encourage and nurture them.”

Mrs. Murray’s belief in students continues through her generous bequest of $1.6 million to Western, which establishes an endowed scholarship program that will provide $60,000 in annual funding for graduate students in microbiology, immunology and pathology.

“Marion knew the value of educational and research opportunities that are essential to seeing young scientists succeed,” adds Koval, who came to Western as a graduate student in 1968 and knew Mrs. Murray as a colleague and friend. “Her gift is a way to reach out and support young people, giving them what they need to move forward in life, just as she did when she worked on campus.”

Dr. Robert Murray, former Department of Microbiology and Immunology professor and chair, chats with Western President Amit Chakma prior to the announcement of a $1.6-million bequest by Dr. Murray’s late wife and former Western employee Marion Murray, to establish three endowed scholarships in support of graduate students at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Raised in London, Mrs. Murray was the daughter of distinguished pathologist and Western professor, Dr. Frederick Winnett Luney. For 23 years, she worked in microbiology and immunology, providing technical support for the laboratory training of countless students. She retired in 1981.

“Marion was the den mother for young medical students… a source of encouragement and support,” says her husband, Dr. Robert Murray, whom she married in 1985.

But she also had a fun side, taking students on picnics, to the beach and hosting holiday celebrations at her home. “An important part of her life was that she didn’t take life too seriously,” he adds. “I hope Marion’s gift will allow students to play at science and enjoy it.”

Every year, through her gift, 15 graduate students at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry will be awarded scholarships named in honour of her father and husband. “Most professors and research scientists received scholarship support to begin their graduate studies and we all remember how important that was for us,” says Andrew Watson, associate dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “A gift like this at the right time in a young scientist’s development is essentially priceless, and we’re extremely grateful to Mrs. Murray for her generosity,” adds Watson. “Her support of graduate students can lay a solid foundation for research discovery over a lifetime.”

Bequest in honour

The bequest from the late Marion Murray, a longtime staff member with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, will create three scholarships for young scientists whose research will lay the foundation for future medical discoveries. The awards are named in honour of Mrs. Murray’s father and husband.

  • Dr. Frederick Winnett Luney Graduate Scholarships in Pathology
  • Dr. Frederick Winnett Luney Graduate Scholarships in Microbiology and Immunology
  • Dr. Robert George Everitt Murray Scholarships

This article appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Impact Western
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