Dr. Robert Murray '53, first Black member of Union's Board, has died

Publication Date

Dr. Robert F. Murray Jr. ’53, of Washington, D.C., was a national authority in the field of genetics, particularly sickle cell anemia, and the first Black member of the Union College Board of Trustees. He died Jan. 21, 2022, at the age of 90.

Dr. Robert Murray '53

Born in Newburgh, N.Y., in 1931, Bob earned a bachelor of science degree from Union, where he contributed significantly to campus life. Upon graduation, he received the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize for outstanding service to the College. Additionally, Bob was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, Delphic Society and Christian Society. He was a soloist for glee club and choir, and a member of Block U. Bob won seven letters in cross country, basketball and track.

Just as engaged as an alumnus, he was a loyal supporter of the College and a member of the Terrace Council, Union’s leadership giving society. Bob was a career resources volunteer, Annual Fund phonathon worker and Alumni Council member. In 1972, he was elected alumni trustee, becoming the first Black member of the Board. He served in that capacity from 1972 until 1980.

Bob also held a master of science degree in genetics from the University of Washington, and a medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine. After completing his residency in internal medicine at the University of Colorado Medical Center, he also served in the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health.

In 1967, Bob joined the faculty of Howard University College of Medicine, where he became chair of the Graduate Department of Genetics and Human Genetics. He also saw patients at the Howard University Hospital pediatric clinic.

During his time at Howard, Bob became a pioneer in pediatric sickle cell disease research. He authored or co-authored more than 80 publications, including four books. Bob retired from the university in 2009 after 42 years.

An active member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, he was a fellow and member of the Board of Directors of the Hastings Center on Bioethics. He was a fellow of the American Association of Science and served on special committees of the National Institutes of Health, including the working group on ethics, law and social issues for the National Center for Human Genome Research.

Outside of medicine, Bob was a lifelong lover of music. He was an accomplished pianist and had a powerful singing voice. He found great joy performing with the choir, and directing and signing with the Jubilee Singers at All Souls Unitarian Church, of which he was a member for more than 40 years.

Possessed of an infectious laugh and great sense of humor, Bob was a born storyteller who loved science fiction, sitcoms, opera, classical music, jazz, R&B, good food and the Redskins.

He is survived by his wife, Isobel (Peachy) Murray; children, Dr. Robert F. Murray III, Suzanne F. Drielsma and Dianne Murray Jones; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.