Jimmy Murray, a Villanova alumnus and the former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, received the Shining Stars Lifetime Achievement award on Jan. 11.
The award, sponsored by the March of Dimes and Comcast Sportsnet, recognizes Murray’s numerous charitable efforts, including his role as a founder of the Ronald McDonald House.
Murray, who graduated in 1960, co-founded the Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home for children who are receiving medical treatment in the area and their families, in 1974.
It all began when Kim Hill, the young daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Following the diagnosis, “Eagles Fly for Leukemia” came to be. The charity’s first promotion was a fur fashion show to raise money.
Leonard Tose, the Eagles owner at the time, then called on Murray to make this the team’s official charity.
Murray visited St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, where Hill was being treated, and spoke with her doctor, Larry Naiman, about how the Eagles’ organization could help the hospital.
Naiman sent Murray to speak with someone who could use the help even more, Dr. Audrey Evans at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Evans, a native of Wales, had never heard of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I said, I’ve got money,” Murray said. “That immediately got her attention.”
Evans said that the hospital needed a room for the patients’ families.
When Murray brought the idea to Tose, Tose said they would raise $1 million for the entire floor.
Murray was responsible for the fundraising.
Murray decided that during the next Eagles game, they would have a radio-thon at halftime.
“Well, God has a sense of humor,” Murray joked.
Before halftime, the Eagles started losing, and the phone calls got ugly. They ended up raising $18; the goal was $50,000.
They were able to later raise $125,000 through a party for the opening of Veterans Stadium.
When Murray presented the check to Evans, she mentioned that they could also use something similar to a YMCA for the children and their families.
Murray responded that they needed a house.
He then called McDonald’s to ask if part of the proceeds from their next fundraiser could go towards the house.
McDonald’s said they would donate all of the proceeds from their Shamrock Shakes to the house if they could put their name on the house, and the Ronald McDonald House was born.
There are now 340 Ronald McDonald Houses in 35 different countries.
“The Ronald McDonald House is a direct miracle of my time here [at Villanova],” Murray said.
Murray originally desired to be an Augustinian priest. He was expelled from the seminary he was attending in Staten Island for sneaking out to see a movie and for planning a visit to New York City, even though he decided not to go on it.
A native of West Philadelphia, Murray then came back to the area and graduated from West Catholic High School and went on to attend the University.
While at the University, Murray was the sports editor of The Villanovan and a member of the debate team.
He also became manager of the baseball team after seeing an ad in The Villanovan.
In this role, Murray met the then baseball head coach Art Mahan. Murray went on to work for the Tidewater Tides baseball team and the Atlanta Crackers baseball team.
While Murray was working as a bartender in Malibu, Mahan—who had since become the athletic director at Villanova—called Murray back to the University to work as the sports information director.
“I’ve never left here [the University], even when I’ve lived in different parts of the world,” Murray said.
After working in the athletic department, Murray then went on to work in the public relations department for the Eagles and later as the general manager from 1974 to 1983.
Murray still visits campus frequently and loves seeing the service efforts of the students through programs such as break trips and Special Olympics.He is working on writing a memoir with the help of Steve McWilliams, director of International/Human Services at the University.
Three of Murray’s five children attended the University, and his son Brian works at the University as the assistant athletic director for Business Operations.
Murray’s charity extends beyond the Ronald McDonald House. Among his many charitable ventures, he sits on two autism awareness boards and works with a childcare center called Frankie’s World in Philadelphia.
As humbled as he is to receive the Shining Stars Award, Murray says the real stars are the children who were also honored that same night.
The children were born premature and struggled to survive at the beginning of their lives.
As part of their award, they each got to spend a day with an athlete from a Philadelphia sports team.
Murray’s lifelong charity and Philadelphia sports connection made him a perfect choice for the award, said Robert Smoose, senior community director for March of Dimes.
“He’s been giving back to the community his entire life,” Smoose said.
Murray currently runs a sports marketing firm called Jim Murray Ltd. and hosts a radio show on WPHT called “Remember When,”though his strongest legacy remains his charity efforts across the nation.


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