Memories of Murray

The Family Research Lab and the Crimes against Children Research Center are mourning  the death of Murray Straus, our colleague and former director of the FRL.  Murray’s research and mentoring have influenced countless people around the world, and left an enduring and inspiring legacy.  As many of his friends and collaborators take time to remember him, we invite you to share with his community of mourners some appreciations or stories on this website, to make that legacy even more visible.  We will be posting information here about future events to honor his memory.

We encourage you to leave any stories or thoughts about Murray in the comments section below.

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31 thoughts on “Memories of Murray

  1. I met Murray when I was his postdoc in 2002-2004. That was the beginning of a wonderful mentorship, friendship, and a working relationship as colleagues. We’ve written papers and a book together, but the best times that I have had with Murray were sitting and talking with him in his office about his professional and personal life adventures. What inspires me most about Murray is his never-ending enthusiasm for asking new research questions and setting about to answer them. I don’t think he’s ever met a research question that he didn’t greet with welcome arms. Emily Douglas

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  2. At the last FRL conference, I was eating lunch next to a young scholar who was clearly nervous about his upcoming presentation. I asked him if it was his first and he said that yes, it was. Then he said that he’d been told that the FRL conference was a great conference to present your first paper because the atmosphere was particularly collegial and supportive. I believe that this character comes from the example of its hosts. I have never done academic work with Murray, but I have seen him interact and work with dozens of researchers and academics at all levels of experience and achievement and am struck by the respect and interest that he brings to these exchanges. -Toby Ball

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  3. Thank you for sharing this sad news. Murray was one of the first people I met on campus upon arriving as a post-doc. His gentle manner, kind spirit, and deep intellectual curiosity were apparent then and apparent as recently as about a month ago when we had a nice visit in his office. He certainly left his mark and will be missed.

    Best,
    Beth Mattingly

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  4. I am also sad to hear of Murray’s passing. I was always impressed by his intellectual curiosity, energy and enthusiasm for research and learning. When I was on Sabbatical at the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison last year, I read a history of the department and there was Murray among the graduates of the department …….his reach was long and he left quite a legacy.
    –Ken Johnson

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  5. I knew Murray since I came to the FRL as a post-doctoral fellow in 1999. However, I became familiar with his research long before I came to UNH, through his colleague Richard Gelles, who was my dissertation advisor in graduate school. What I most appreciated about Murray was his unflagging enthusiasm for social science. He reminds us constantly of the necessity of using research to check assumptions, particularly in a field such as violence where emotions run high and so much is at stake. He matched his passion for reducing all violence with methodical study. His commitment to the field of violence research served as a wonderful source of inspiration for me as a researcher, and I will draw from it well into the future.
    -Lisa Jones, University of New Hampshire

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  6. I have knew Murray for 16 years and he was truly an inspiration to us all; his dedication and passion for his work was immeasurable. One of my fondest memories with Murray occurred years ago at the American Society of Criminology conference in Toronto. A group of us, including myself, Dustin, Murray, and Dorothy, went out to a comedy show after the conference one night. I don’t think we stopped laughing! It was such a joyful time; a time that has been etched in my memory since that night.
    -Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD

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  7. Murray was the central figure of this department, indeed its energetic heart, when I arrived here in 1977. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of former students, now accomplished professionals, who are training new students in turn. There must already be a third generation.

    I like David’s image of someone inspired and working to the last. That certainly sounds like Murray.

    Larry Hamilton

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  8. Since before the first family violence conference in New Hampshire I was “introduced” to Murray through his pioneering, foundational work in his book, “Behind Closed Doors.” I was at Yale on a mid-career postdoc and studying the impact of the local domestic violence shelter. I was privileged to meet Murray at New Hampshire’s first family violence conference and have rarely missed these conferences in the interim decades. The opportunities to see and talk with Murray were always highlights of those conferences. I also recall a special occasion when I felt very honored to appear on the same panel with him to brief the DHHS Children’s Bureau on our separate findings about the incidence of child abuse. His enthusiasm, dedication, curiosity, and generosity never wavered over the years. Always humble and kind, he inspired and encouraged innumerable colleagues and students to follow in those footsteps and with that same spirit. He leaves us a great legacy and many memories. He will always be on my Mount Rushmore of family violence researchers and I’m grateful to have known him for so many years both professionally and as a friend. — Andrea Sedlak

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  9. Murray was a hero to me. He was a courageous but gentle giant and one of the true pioneers into the area of family violence. His recognition of corporal punishment as a fundamental problem in society was visionary. In many ways, he was a model for us to try to live up to. We will greatly miss him.

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  10. I had the good fortune to become one of Murray’s post-docs in 1985, where I spent two years working with him and David. Murray was one of the kindest and most positive people I have ever met in my life. I learned many things from Murray, but the two most important were how to mentor graduate students and how to keep moving forward with your work when facing adversity. In fact, everything I know about mentoring graduate students began by being mentored by Murray—and all of my graduate students have heard this repeatedly for the past three decades. I will miss Murray running down the hall toward me at ASA year after year to tell me about his newest project—even at age 87. And his interest in hearing about my own work even 30 years after I was his post-doc remained as strong as when I used to go in his office and he would literally “clear his table” by dumping his output on the floor so that I could put mine down to look at together. His zest for life well into his later years was so great what when I told my husband, Scott Feld (also one of Murray’s post-docs) about Murray’s passing, he asked whether it was from a skiing accident. I remember Murray telling me many times about conferences he had chosen to attend because of the good skiing—and telling me that he planned to ski in his suit because it stretched really well and he liked to travel light. What a great scholar and incredible human being. The world has lost a truly bright light in every meaning of that term.

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  11. I met Murray 21 years ago when I had just started my Masters in Family Studies. I remember being nervous knocking on the black door to the Family Research Lab!! As a research assistant at American Humane Association in Denver for years before going back grad school, I had read so many articles from the FRL and I just couldn’t believe that I was there. After meeting Murray and David, they convinced me to stay in school and switch to sociology for my PhD. My life would have been so different if I had never met Murray! What I remember most is how excited he was to see my latest cross-tabs and regression. More excited than I was if I am being honest! His enthusiasm was contagious and infectious. I came to see how valuable good social science research is and how it can influence public policy and the social construction of problems. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to know someone as inspirational and giving as Murray. I will try and pay it forward.

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  12. I met Murray when I came to UNH as one of the many post-docs that had the great opportunity to learn from him. While I echo what others have written about his kindness, generosity, and dedication to his work, my fondest memory was getting to ride with him on his scooter on my last day of the post-doc when he took me to lunch. That’s the kind of day you don’t forget! He will be dearly missed, he’s one of the ones that put a ding in the universe. – Carlos A. Cuevas

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  13. I’m so sad to hear about the loss of Prof. Murray Straus. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. I met Murray Straus in 2001, and I felt shock to know someone so relevant for me and for so many researchers and so warm and humble at the same time. We had lunch always at 12h (too early for me as a Spanish!) and I felt so honoured to share those moments with him. He even came to Barcelona a few years ago. He was full of life, passion for work and motivation! Social science researchers are a bit orphan today; but I’m sure Murray Straus publications and knowledge will pass on from generation to generation

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  14. Murray brought scholarly rigor to the study of family violence. I was always impressed by his ability to turn to a new area of inquiry and shed light on it in ways not previously imagined. This was true in his initial national surveys of family violence, his examination of international comparative data and his focus on spanking and corporal punishment. I didn’t always agree with his interpretation of the data but always found him willing to engage and discuss our differences. I really appreciated that quality in him.
    He will be missed! Jeffrey L. Edleson, Dean and Professor, School of Social Welfare, UC Berkeley.

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  15. What amazes me about Murray was his genuine ability to make every one of his students feel that they were valued and had his full attention. I always felt like he was my biggest fan, but then I learned that all of his students felt that way. In no way does that change my feeling that he was my biggest fan. His enthusiasm for research was absolutely contagious. He was kind and gentle, and I could listen to his stories about his life and work for hours. My favorite times with him were when we would have hours-long meetings, which would alternate between discussing our research projects and discussing life. One of my favorite Murray stories comes from a conference we attended together. He and I were sitting and catching up after the evening opening session. A graduate student nervously approached us; she really wanted to meet Murray. She was a big fan of his work, and was anxious to speak with him. It was a thrill for her to meet him. For the rest of the conference, Murray continually sought her out because he wanted to learn more about her work. He was just as excited to meet her as she was to meet him. That’s classic Murray. He will be missed. He absolutely changed the world for the better.

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  16. I am heartbroken to hear the news of Murray’s passing. I met him in 1990 as a postdoc. I remember a story he told about a couple of his professors who were Christians (one was even a Bible salesman! Murray was amazed by this). These professors felt called to go to the South each summer and meet promising Black students and mentor them through college and PhD studies. It was something they worked at year after year. Murray said that most of the Black sociologists at that time had somehow been in contact with these 2 professors. I remember being really struck by that story and how one or two people could really have a huge impact, even without any type of official program backing them. I think the same can be said for Murray. When I think about most of the major scholars in the family violence field, most have been influenced, in some way, by Murray directly, or by the many people that Murray mentored. He was always so generous with his time, and always was willing to help, share his knowledge and materials, and give an encouraging word. He very much was like those 2 professors he admired who mentored Black scholars back in the 1950s, long before anyone else was doing it. Murray mentored scholars in the new field of family violence, and the effects of his mentorship have covered the world. I will truly miss him, and am so sad not to see him this summer. But it comforts me to know that his work will live on through the many lives he touched.
    Kathy Kendall-Tackett

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  17. I am so saddened to hear of Murray’s passing. What a tremendous loss to far more than the research world – society is poorer given his absence. I am short on words, but long on admiration for his contributions everywhere.

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  18. Murray accepted my request to speak in support of my resolution to encourage parents and caregivers to refrain from using corporal punishment on children. The resolution has been rejected two previous times at Brookline Town Meeting in Brookline, MA. Thanks to Murray, this time it passed by nine votes, and Brookline became the first municipality in the country to adopt such a resolution. I appreciate all his work in the interest of children. His participation at this meeting was a generous gift that made the difference. May his work continue to make a difference for children.

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  19. Murray was one of the great ones: high integrity, courage and a pioneer. He essentially established the research underpinning in the area of domestic violence and had the courage to highlight male victimization. We meet on three occasions at conferences as well as when he hosted conference presenters at his wonderful house in New Hampshire. He was a gracious and gentle man and I will miss him.

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  20. I met Murray in Horton Hall while I was setting up my office shortly after arriving at UNH. We talked for a long while and he invited me to join him and a few FRL colleagues for lunch at his home. He offered to drive. Little did I know that his mode of transportation to and from campus was a moped (it wasn’t much larger than a bicycle). As we were getting ready to leave, I looked at the moped and thought to myself “How in the world can two people can fit on that thing?” Then he started the engine and said “jump on!” The next thing I know we are on Mill Road and I’m holding on for my dear life. I don’t remember much about the lunch, but the moped ride was a wonderfully appropriate way to be introduced to Murray, and to UNH.

    In the years that followed, Murray always strongly supported my work and career. He even convinced me to write a book chapter (with Susan Ross) for an edited volume on corporal punishment, something I knew little about at the time. Actually, it didn’t take much to convince me. As others have mentioned, Murray’s passion was contagious.

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  21. What a great loss to the field. Murray made so many contributions to the scientific study and measurement of violence and in advocating for its prevention. I met Murray at the first family violence research conference at UNH in the early 80’s, my first professional meeting. Over the course of years our paths crossed many times, and his work has been a strong influence. At one point we were involved in a symposium. I needed to introduce him and to prepare I read his CV. I discovered he had been in the Army and driven a tank. He commented that he never experienced any actual combat. Picturing such a gentle, kind mind behind the wheel of a machine of violence always struck me as a strange contrast. I always knew him as a scientist and advocate of the first order, and a supporter of so many who push the world toward peace. Plowshares indeed.

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    1. Murray was one of the great ones: courageous, high integrity and a true pioneer. He essentially established the research grounding of domestic violence and had the courage to advocate for male victims. I meet him at three occasions at professional conferences and when he hosted presenters at his wonderful home in New Hampshire. He was a gentle and kind man &I will miss him.

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  22. It was May 1974, as long as 42 years ago, when I first met Professor Murray Straus, transferring from the U of Wisconsin, Madison to UNH. Murray was no way easy about accepting my request for becoming an academic advisor of the Ph.D. program. It was only after weekly sessions on Friday afternoons throughout the entire summer that he finally gave me the green light to become the academic advisor. He assured me that the name of the institution from which I got a doctorate was in no way important. Instead, what you accomplished would be truly counted. Since then, Murray gave me his usual style of rigorous advice with academic integrity, kindness, and warm-hearted zeal for the pursuit of scientific truth. He influenced me to be positive in my life, and to be an eternal student. It was fortunate that a complimentary copy of my most recent book entitled on Family Violence in Japan (published in March 2016 through Springer) was at his hands in March of this year. Murray, we all miss you tremendously.

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  23. So many of these comments resonate with me and mirror my personal and professional experiences with Murray. We met in 1985 when I was a (many years post) postdoc at UNH. Most impressive was his dedication to his work and to his students. He mentored so many and one would be hard-pressed to find as generous a mentor anywhere. For years — for always– he took hours each week to provide valuable feedback on drafts of papers to countless scholars who passed through the Family Research Laboratory. The weekly seminar (where drafts of papers are reviewed by all attendees) is something I have emulated elsewhere but never replicated…. Mostly because of the missing key ingredient– Murray Straus. That seminar is, I believe, to be credited for the productivity of all at the FRL.

    Murray’s work on VAW was ground breaking (if in later days controversial) and his clear reading of the data on the consequences of spanking reflect his dedication to the science AND his commitment to children everywhere.

    Amazingly he always seems to have time or to make time to meet and consult and assist. Yes– you were likely to encounter Murray running through the halls at a conference– maybe with an ice cream in his hand at 10 am! Murray dashing to a session. 24 years my senior I could not keep pace with him. I recall Gerry Hotaling telling me the same thing 30 years ago — how Murray (only days after his by-pass surgery) demanded his notes and printouts be brought to the hospital and that his colleagues working with him pace the hospital halls with him (as he needed to walk to recover) and discuss the paper in progress, all the while with his rolling IV attached. Murray beat the odds so many times. Why? Well yes likely because of his activity and joy of living. Indeed (just before he met Dorothy) while he had a “bachelor” Christmas holiday he came and spent it with me and my husband in NH. On Christmas Eve day he awoke and announced that he would drive to Sunday River and ski. That he did. I didn’t see his ski togs– ha ha. Yes he had his suit pants and pointedly told me and Clint that that was his preferred way to ski as he could just go do it anytime that way. No need to lug around (or invest in) fancy ski garb. (This reminds me of when, many years later, he took the bus from Durham to Boston to get another stent put in his heart — how many stents did he have??– and all the time complaining about the bus being so slow but that he had no other choice as Dorothy wouldn’t let him ride his scooter to the stent appointment!! )

    Ah, so many stories to tell! He will be missed and many more stories recounted I am sure as we try to make sense of Murray and try to learn the secrets of a life well lived.

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  24. I met Murray when he visited the UK to meet with John Archer. I was a mere PhD student and completely awe struck at meeting him. He was so lovely to me and made me feel my research was important (very helpful for a first year PhD student). The next time I met him was when had travelled alone to the NH conference, only the second time I had ever been overseas and the first time I had travelled alone. I was so nervous, but as I walked through the door at the Sheraton Murray happened to be passing and immediately said “Nicola”! He had only met me once and he knew my name. After that he always attended my presentations, provided me with a reference for my promotion and even agreed to talk at a conference I had organised in the UK. For which he claimed no expenses. I found him a truly inspirational person, both gracious and tenacious in equal parts. A rare man indeed. A life well lived, and a challenge for the rest of us to do the same.

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  25. In the beginning, there was Murray. When I wrote my dissertation proposal on IPV, the lit review consisted of Murray and Rich. He has always been there, both for me personally and for the field of family violence. Who amongst us doesn’t track our family violence ancestry to Murray in some way. He has been an inspiration and a force of nature. What could be better than feeding the mosquitos at Murray’s cocktail party every year? Wanna borrow a bathing suit and go for a swim in his living room? How about “Breakfasts with Murray” at the FRL conference? Murray can’t be gone. While I will miss his physical presence, Murray will always be with us. He has inspired or influenced so many. No one can write an article in the family violence area without citing him and when we cite him, we will remember him and what he meant to us.

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  26. I came to FRL as a post-doc in 2006 then stayed for another 3 1/2 years after my postdoc had ended to continue working with Murray on the Dimensions of Discipline Inventory, which we had co-authored, and the International Parenting Study, which we co-directed. Both of those were highly unusual in the world of academia, not only to embark on two very ambitious projects with a post-doc, but also to treat that post-doc as a full and equal partner throughout.

    Murray’s egalitarianism extended not only to elevating students and post-docs to his level but also to his own undertakings. He was the only full professor I’ve ever known who ran all of his own statistical analyses and conducted his own literature searches. He was always up to date on the literature in all of his sub-fields of family violence research as well as, seemingly, all of sociology, family relations, and child development more broadly. He seemed to know everyone in the field, and certainly everyone knew him. Once when he and I were walking together around SRCD, more than once scholars he’d never met handed me their cameras and asked me to take a photo of them with Murray; after he’d graciously talked with them for a few minutes, I could hear them rave about getting to meet their hero, or how he was the reason they’d entered the field in the first place. At the time I had the thought, “This must be what it feels like to walk around in public with Michael Jordan.” Murray was the Michael Jordan of family violence research.

    One of the most important professional lessons Murray taught me was to follow the data. He didn’t come to corporal punishment research with an ideological opposition to spanking children (unlike many of us who now study it); he surveyed people about it because he was curious, and when the data said that it was bad for children, he listened to the data and changed his own beliefs.

    Murray loved his work more than anyone I’ve ever known. Unless he was traveling, he was in his office like clockwork from 10-6 Mondays through Fridays, and sometimes on weekends. Always in a suit, with footwear depending on the season (Birkenstocks, rain boots…). The various times that his health took him out of the office, he was still hard at work: at the computer the day of his eye surgery with an eyepatch over one eye, insisting that printouts be brought to him when he was hospitalized and the doctors wouldn’t allow him to have a computer in his bed.

    He was devoted to his work yet also uncommonly intrepid. During one of our weekly meetings he mentioned very casually the summer he’d spent living on Mount Everest, because a colleague at University of Ceylon needed a research assistant (geology, if I remember correctly) and Murray, as always, was game for anything. Another time he casually mentioned the file that the FBI had on him during the Cold War because he had once traveled to Communist Bulgaria; he’d been invited to give a talk in Sofia, and he saw no reason that he shouldn’t visit a new country. He embraced new technologies more than most people half his age. In his early 80s when he gave up his beloved hobby of skiing, he told me he could still ski intermediate trails, but it just wasn’t worth it if he could no longer do black diamonds.

    The memory that best sums up Murray for me: In 2006, an attempted terrorist plot led to severe security restrictions on flights in and out of the UK. Murray was headed to a conference in London just days after the incident, but was not fazed by the terrorism nor by the restrictions. I told him that there were no liquids allowed on board. He had no problem with that. I told him that passengers weren’t being allowed to bring carry-on luggage. He said that he didn’t care, that he would just carry his laptop in his hand. I told him that I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be allowed to bring his laptop. “Forget it! I’m not going!” But of course he went anyway. Murray traveled around the world more in the decade of his 80s than almost anyone else will travel in their entire lifetime. He also published more articles and books and delivered more talks in his 80s (or pick any other decade of his life) than most of us will accomplish in our entire careers. In so many ways, he was, and remains, an inspiration.

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  27. Murray may earn the prize for the most optimistic and thoughtful scholar I have ever encountered. We first met at a meeting in Satra Bruk, Sweden, in 1985 and bonded over stories of Minnesota winters, skiing, sailing, and travel. Murray did all of these things well and with unbridled enthusiasm. In 1995, I spent a semester with FRL and Murray and got involved in the revision of the CTS for parent-child conflict. I learned about surveys from him and his close colleagues and have put that experience to work since then- not many pediatricians engage in large population surveys but Murray and David got me hooked. Other memories include his telling me about being arrested for not wearing a motorcycle helmet in North Carolina when he put ashore on his sabbatical cruise down the east coast. He forgot that other states actually don’t like people on scooters not to wear helmets. Murray’s work has been so important and laid the groundwork for subsequent work in which we have developed a set of three instruments on child abuse that have now been fielded in over 45 countries.
    The generosity of his mentoring and scholarship is the legacy that he has left as a benchmark for faculty to follow. We all need to find ways to be as generous and encouraging of our students as Murray was of his.

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  28. At the beginning of my criminological life, as a librarian at the Australian Institute of Criminology, I was delighted to have the chance to become familiar with Murray’s research. As I slowly turned myself into a criminologist, I followed Murray’s work eagerly and was thrilled to meet him at ASC over the years. But my nicest encounter with Murray was over the several days we both spent as guest speakers at the World Victimology Symposium in 2009. Murray and I were joined by Nils Christie and I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun and laughter in my life than in the company of those two gents. What fabulous role models each of them have been – both lived their lives to the full and left so many memories to treasure. Vale Murray

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  29. Murray’s first academic appointment in 1950 or so was at the University of Ceylon Colombo.The university then did not teach sociology and Murray and Prof Bryce Ryan, later of Rutgers University, was invited to start a department there.They laid the foundation and field is now flourishing.Several of Murray’s early publications used data that he had collected in the island.
    Years later he invited me to be his Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota to work on some Ceylon material.He was indeed a very warm and kind hearted person ready to help and encourage students.Another thing I must mention about him is that he was above petty academic quarrels and small minded backbiting that sometimes sullies the work of departments!

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