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Martin D. Murphy ’52, former regent and trustee and Christ the King recipient

Martin D. “Pete” Murphy with his wife, Joanne, at the school’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2005.

Few individuals have shaped the course of SI more than Martin D. “Pete” Murphy ’52, former chair of SI’s Board of Regents and, in 1998, one of the first non-Jesuits to join the Board of Trustees.

A third-generation San Franciscan, a descendant of the California Pioneers and a partner in the law firm of Tobin & Tobin, Mr. Murphy died Feb. 8 at the age of 81.

Since joining the Board of Regents in 1978, Mr. Murphy proved instrumental in helping SI become one of the leading schools in the state. He assisted with the transition to coeducation in 1989, in raising money for the Genesis III Building for the Future campaign that improved the campus significantly and in guiding the school through the growth of its endowment and admissions outreach throughout the Bay Area.

He and his wife of 51 years, Joanne, also received numerous honors for their support of Catholic institutions. Mr. Murphy received the St. Thomas More Award as an outstanding Catholic attorney, the Alice Phelan/Sullivan Award from Catholic Charities, Alumnus of the Year from USF School of Law and the Christ the King Award from SI, which he received in 1995.

In addition to chairing SI’s Genesis III campaign, Mr. Murphy also led capital campaigns for St. Brendan School’s parish center and the USF School of Law’s library. He also served as president of seven Catholic organizations as well as a director of the Knights of Malta and the Society of California Pioneers.

After attending Notre Dame des Victoires, Mr. Murphy matriculated to SI where he played baseball and basketball before continuing to SCU, where he met longtime friend Anthony P. Sauer, S.J., who would later serve as SI president. After graduating and before studying law at USF, Mr. Murphy served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army for two years.

Long after his service on SI’s boards ended, Mr. Murphy continued to support the school as a Planned Giving Ambassador. To honor this great Ignatian, SI named the pavilion of the new gym in his honor.

Mr. Murphy’s family and countless friends knew him as a man of enormous humility, generosity, loyalty and humor. His sons Marty ’84, John ’86 and Pat ’91 recall that their father rarely passed on the opportunity to laugh at himself or to make others laugh and often joked that he carried classmates through school and was both a great natural athlete and a dead-ringer for Brad Pitt.

SI’s Vice President for Advancement Joe Vollert ’84, whose father, Joe Vollert ’52, also befriended Mr. Murphy at SI and at SCU, noted that “the San Francisco Catholic community has lost its favorite son, and SI has lost one of our iconic leaders. Pete embodied our faith’s call to service as chair of the Board of Regents when we transitioned both our student body and campus to include young women, something that not only transformed SI but also San Francisco forever. He will always serve as a model of Christian leadership.”

Steve Lovette ’63, who retired from his post as vice president for advancement, added that Mr. Murphy would typically greet people by saying, “’Hi! Pete Murphy, local prominent attorney — more local than prominent.’ He would then offer a hearty laugh. During the Genesis III campaign, I would meet Pete downtown, and it would take forever to walk two blocks on Montgomery Street. He seemed to know everybody and would stop to give them a moment of his time, including a kind word or a corny joke. We were always late to appointments, but people didn’t care.  They knew Pete and they knew why. Goodness, sincerity, integrity and honesty, and throw in a good measure of humor. That was Pete.”

Fr. Sauer, who eulogized his classmate at St. Ignatius Church on Feb. 16, noted that Mr. Murphy “gave his wisdom and counsel as chair of the regents and long-time member. I don’t know if he — graduate of an all-male high school and university — was for or against SI going coeducational, but he saw the vision and its purpose and thoroughly embraced the concept throughout his most successful tenure. In all that time, he was always charismatic, charming and fun.”

Donations in Pete’s memory may be made to the Martin D. “Pete” Murphy Class of 1952 Scholarship Fund or the charity of your choice.


Posted by Mr. Paul J. Totah on Thursday April 13
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