A story and man worth remembering

If you work as a storyteller long enough you’ll eventually encounter a tale that really sticks with you. It might even change you in some way.

Chuck McMurray was at the center of one of those types of stories for me.

Chuck (or “Mac” as we called him) was a longtime staff member at the Alumni Association and someone I was fortunate to know. Mac passed away this past Saturday after a short illness. He was 89.

There are so many good things that I can say about Mac, probably too many to capture in an entry like this one. He was incredibly wise, kind and giving. A former colleague at the Alumni Association once referred to him as the organization’s “conscience,” because he always had insightful feedback when asked about the proper way to approach something.

I arrived at OSUAA in 2005 and Mac offered to take me out to lunch within my first few weeks on the job. It was the start of what I consider a valuable friendship. Over the next few years I got to know Mac fairly well. He was a proud graduate of Ohio State (1950) and he had many, many stories to tell about his nearly lifelong relationship with the university.

Listening to his recollections inspired a story idea that my colleague and I Rick Harrison decided to pursue. Mac talked often about his time as an undergrad at Ohio State. These were transitional years where the university was seeing its first large-scale increase in the African American student population.

Mac lived through that turbulent time and his memories of those years really struck me. With Mac’s help, we connected with three other African American alumni from that era (Judge Robert M. Duncan, Barbara Thornton Harris and John B. Williams) and began work on a video project titled Pilgrimage of Progress. The goal of the piece was to paint a clear and honest picture of the university in post-WWII America.

This was one of the first video projects Rick and I tackled, and to be honest the production value is not that great. What is exceptional, however, are the stories and memories shared by these four trailblazers, individuals who earned their degrees and then went out in the world and made it a better place.

Mac led us to that idea and I feel fortunate that he did. As members of the Greatest Generation leave us, I think it is important to capture their stories and make sure they last far into the future. These stories are worth remembering, repeating and learning from. I’m grateful that Chuck McMurray gave me that opportunity.