John Murray, FCRH ’57, a shipping executive who was instrumental in bringing Michelangelo’s Pietà to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, died on Sept. 12 at his home in Highlands, N.J. He was 83.
Murray enrolled at Fordham after his military service as a first sergeant with the U.S. Army in peacetime Germany. He graduated with his younger brother, Patrick Murray, FCRH ’57, and went to work for a classmate’s family’s trucking firm, McNally Brothers, where he eventually became president. The Bronx native later traveled the world as an executive at shipping firm D.F. Young.
When Pope John XXIII authorized the transport of the Pietà to Queens to be displayed in the Vatican Pavilion at the World’s Fair, Murray traveled to Rome with a team of three men—known as the Vatican Pavilion Transport Committee—who were entrusted with the difficult task of packing and shipping the precious three-ton statue safely. In gratitude for its successful voyage and safe return, the Vatican granted Murray and his wife, Eileen, an audience with Pope Paul VI, who had succeeded Pope John. According to Murray’s son John Jr., GSB ’85, the pontiff told the elder Murray that he was the first person to ever move the Pietà from Rome, and he’d be the last. Pope Paul knighted Murray into the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
In a family of six children, Murray had three siblings who earned Fordham degrees: the late Monsignor James J. Murray, FCRH ’48, LAW ’51, and GSS ’58 (known as “Uncle Bud” to his many nieces and nephews), who served as executive director of Catholic Charities in New York; the late Patrick W. Murray, FCRH ’57, who was special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York field office; and Mary May Houlihan, GSS ’49 and ’86, former social worker for Catholic Charities and mother of James Houlihan, GSB ’74, chair of the Fordham University President’s Council.
Murray is survived by Eileen, his wife of 57 years; their five children, Joseph, John Jr., Kathleen, Kevin, and Margaret; and 13 grandchildren. His siblings, Mary May and Sister Mary Rose Murray, S.U., also survive him. He is predeceased by his brothers James and Patrick; his sister Rosaleen Murray Sage; and his parents, Rose and Joseph Murray.
For more about Fordham’s connections to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, look for a feature story in the spring issue of FORDHAM magazine.