Tribute to Ray Murphy

With the recent death of Ray Murphy, aged 54, the world of philanthropy in Europe and the United States has suffered a great loss. Although Ray’s career in philanthropy was relatively brief he has left behind him a legion of friends and admirers.

Philanthropy and Ray Murphy were ideally matched. Ray joined The Atlantic Philanthropies in Ireland (then known as Tara Consultants) in 1993 as a senior consultant. He was responsible for Atlantic’s grantmaking in support of philanthropy and the non-profit sector, and educational disadvantage.

Ray quickly established himself as a savvy and intuitive grantmaker. He had little faith in the formal processes of strategic planning and organizational assessment. Instead, he had an uncanny ability to cut to the core of an issue, to establish a rapport with grantees, and to devise a package of support which both met the needs of the moment and was challenging to the recipient. Through his legendary interpersonal skills, Ray quickly established links with colleagues in the foundation world, and funding partnerships initiated by Ray Murphy were a joy for all who participated in them.

At an early stage in his Atlantic career, Ray was assigned responsibility for Atlantic’s nascent Central Europe programme. He seized the opportunity to perform on a larger stage and soon established a stellar reputation for himself in places as far apart as Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. It was at this time that he came to be one of the leading figures at the annual conferences of the European Foundation Centre.

Ray’s work in Central Europe attracted the attention of William S White, Chairman and CEO of the CS Mott Foundation. In 2000 he became Director of Mott’s Civil Society Programme with responsibilities for grantmaking in Europe, the USA and South Africa. His circle of admirers widened to include many in the great foundations of the United States.

Ray was a wonderful colleague and friend. All were affected by his optimism and few could resist his charm. Always motivated by a strong sense of social justice, Ray’s natural sympathy was for the underdog.

In recent years Ray Murphy bore serious illness with courage and cheerfulness. He was strengthened by the loving care of his wife Catriona, and his family, and by the stream of messages of support which arrived regularly from friends and colleagues in Ireland, the United States, Western Europe and South Africa.

The world of philanthropy has been cruelly robbed of a talent which had so much more to offer. But all of us in the foundation and non-profit worlds who knew Ray are grateful to him for what he gave to us and to so many others.

John Healy

John Healy recruited Ray Murphy into The Atlantic Philanthropies in 1993. He recently retired as Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic. Email

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