When Michael W. Murray was growing up on tough streets in Newark, N.J., in the late 1940s and early '50s, he found a refuge for after-school recreation and mentorship at the local Boys Club.
He appreciated those benefits the rest of his life and, in turn, spent decades helping shape the lives of thousands of boys and girls in need of safe activities and guidance.
Mr. Murray, who served as president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania from 1970 to '89 and held many additional positions with the nonprofit, died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday at his home in Scott. He was 73.
From his days as a youth participant in his local club, Mr. Murray served in part-time jobs there while attending college and in mid-level Boys Club staff positions elsewhere in his 20s. By age 30, he held a position organizing a group of eight independent clubs in the Pittsburgh area into a new network, which he oversaw.
Mr. Murray spent the next 20 years focused on young people as head of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, which served school-age children throughout the region with sports teams, after-school programs, tutoring and other assistance.
Mike Hepler, who worked on his staff and succeeded him as president, said Mr. Murray had a knack for bringing out the best in his many underlings.
"His mission was always the children, the children, the children -- to do the best we can for the kids, and he expected that of everybody," Mr. Hepler said.
He said that while the recreational programs have always been the hook to draw kids in off the street, Mr. Murray emphasized the hiring and availability of qualified counselors to assist youths who were having troubles in their lives. He provided a blueprint in terms of organizational structure, finances and values that remains useful decades later, Mr. Hepler said.
Mr. Murray was long vocal and active in the organization nationally, and he left Pittsburgh in 1989 for the equivalent position running the much larger Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago. He was not as happy there, however, and returned to Pittsburgh after two years, working in consulting and staff positions with the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Girl Scouts of Southwestern Pennsylvania before his retirement in 1999.
Fundraising for the different agencies he served was one of the strengths of Mr. Murray, who also did volunteer work and served on advisory boards for numerous groups, including United Way, the CARE Foundation, Chartiers Community Mental Health and Retardation Center, the American Cancer Society, the Civic Light Opera, and Pittsburgh Children's Museum.
"I guess he wasn't afraid to ask" for money to support the causes he believed in, said his wife, June. "He was not a retiring soul; he was confident."
Mr. Murray was an avid golfer -- mostly at South Park -- who created an annual charity golf outing for the Boys and Girls Clubs before such events were common as nonprofit fundraisers. It remains a financial staple for the agency today.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by one son, Michael Murray of the South Side, and one daughter, Laura Tracy of Robinson.
A Mass will be at noon Saturday in Ss. Simon and Jude Church, 1625 Greentree Road.
Gary Rotstein: email@example.com or 412-263-1255.