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Friday, February 25, 2011

John D. Murray DVM, Cornell 1939: A Memorial Tribute

Posted by Donald F. Smith, DVM, Cornell University
February 25, 2011

This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013).

Dr. John Murray, one of Cornell’s most loyal veterinary alumni, died early today. He was ninety-eight.

Born of hearty Irish stock on a farm near Addison, Pennsylvania, John spent two years at Alfred College, then applied to the veterinary college at Cornell. After waiting for several months without a response, he traveled to Ithaca one Saturday morning and had an impromptu meeting with Dean William Hagan.  

Dr. John D. Murray, 2008
Photo by the author

Three months later, his father carried a letter into the tannery where he was working. “My fingers were trembling when I opened that letter and read the opening lines, ‘We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted.’ That letter changed my life forever”, he recalled during a conversation in 2007.

Following graduation in 1939, he spent a year as Instructor in Surgery at Cornell’s large animal clinic then started a general practice in the rural community of Painted Post. He was a capable and innovative practitioner, and a good surgeon.

Dr. Murray became active in the local veterinary association and, in 1970, served as president of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. John and his first wife, Agnes, raised three children, John, Martin (“Mickey”) and Mary Agnes, and were active in the local community until she unfortunately succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

Retiring after four decades in practice, Dr. Murray and his second wife, Marion, spent their summers in southern New York, relocating to Florida during the winter months where he enjoyed golf and fishing.

Dr. Murray served as the quintessential ambassador for Cornell, participating on the Cornell University Council. As chairman of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s fund raising committee, he never asked others to contribute more than himself. University President Frank H. T. Rhodes named him a Foremost Benefactor of the university in 1980 and the college’s John D. Murray Lecture Hall was named in his honor.

Though Dr. Murray’s later years were punctuated by sadness with the loss of Marion, he continued to serve as the Class of ’39 leader, staying in frequent touch with classmates and helping host their five-year reunions. Until a few months ago, he would even occasionally drive back to his beloved Cornell to meet friends and perhaps pop into the executive office to great the dean.

Dr. Murray recently developed heart failure and spent his remaining days in a local Hospice facility. It was there I had a wonderful visit with him two weeks ago. He regaled me with familiar stories of his early days in practice, and affirmed his love for Cornell and his classmates.

With his passing, we lose a legendary veterinarian of incredible wit and charm, and unsurpassed loyalty to the profession and to Cornell's veterinary college.  

The full text and audio of a 2007 interview with Dr. Murray, including his sidesplitting rendition of “Petey the Snake”, can be heard at,%20John%20D.%20'39%20BioInt.pdf

Dr. Smith invites comments at