Building bridges: Richard Murray (BEng (NSTC)’66)
“One of the most important parts of bridge-building is people,” he says. “Whether you’re building a physical bridge or just trying to bridge a gap between people, it’s always the people that make it successful.”
Richard Murray (BEng (NSTC)’66) and his wife, Melda, are paving the way for student success through an endowed scholarship fund they have established at Dalhousie. Richard & Melda Murray Scholarships will be awarded to two students from Jamaica who are planning to pursue a career in civil engineering. The renewable scholarships, which will be awarded in perpetuity, are each valued at up to $22,000 per year.
The Murrays’ links with Jamaica span more than 40 years, including the decade they lived there. It all began in the late 1960s when Mr. Murray, a civil engineer, accepted a one-year contract with Alcan. When the contract ended, he had offers to stay in Jamaica. He worked with local companies and managed a ready-mix concrete company before starting a general contracting business with three partners. In addition to professional connections with the country, the Murrays have an important personal one – their son, Cameron, was born there.
Today, as president of the Halifax firm R. A. Murray International Limited, Mr. Murray and his team provide engineering, general contracting, material procurement and logistical services to countries throughout the world. They recently completed the project of building 17 bridges plus connector roads across Jamaica. They begin work on a new installment of bridge-building in April 2012.
The infrastructure is essential to the Jamaican economy. “People can’t get their goods and services to market without the proper road system and highway bridges,” Mr. Murray says. He explains that bridge-building is a team effort. “Our program has been successful because of the high involvement of Jamaicans giving us great input, and our mentoring and training.”
The firm has also made a difference through corporate citizenship. “We really wanted to be part of the community that we were building a bridge in. So we helped reconstruct schools that were in a bad state of repair from the hurricanes, we equipped several schools and we assisted a couple of police stations by putting all new windows in them,” Mr. Murray says.
And now the Murrays are providing a bridge to university education through their scholarship fund at Dalhousie. “Jamaica gave us a wonderful experience in many ways,” Mrs. Murray says. “We feel that we owe that country something….We always said that if there was any way in which we could help we would do it. We both feel that now is the time to pay back.”
Their hope is that scholarship recipients will return to Jamaica and contribute to the country’s progress. “It was really emphasized to me how important it is to do this, because when we formed our management team for our last bridge program, the average age of the team members was about 68-77. I was one of the youngest guys….” Mr. Murray says. “So I’m hoping that these graduates will go back. As long as I have work in Jamaica I will hire them.”
While the Murrays continue their international work and travels, they are glad of their long-standing ties with Halifax and Dalhousie. Mrs. Murray says she earned her PhT (Putting Hubby Through) working full time at the Sir James Dunn Law Library, while her husband was studying at Nova Scotia Technical College and holding down a part-time job.
When asked what Dalhousie means to him, Mr. Murray replies: “Dalhousie was my introduction to higher education. I admit I was never a great student, but I was inspired by Dalhousie to get on and succeed and become an engineer.”