A Team Room in Tribute: How Norman Murray’s Legacy Lives on at UW–Madison

John “Norman” Murray was the embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.

In 1948, he left his hometown of Clayton, Wisconsin, a town in northwestern Wisconsin with a population of less than 500 people, to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Majoring in Economics, he was a member of the Alpha Theta fraternity and joined the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) before being deployed to Korea with the U.S Army Military Police Corps.

Norm Murray’s Bucky Board

While in college, he connected with fellow student, Newell Erickson, after they discovered both of their parents owned the local hardware store in their hometowns. After graduation, they would both go on to take over the family business but stayed close.

Despite living over 250 miles away in Clayton, he stayed connected to Madison and married a Madison girl, Joan Zens, in 1957. They made many trips to the area and enjoying the famous farmer’s market. After his retirement, they even rented an apartment in Madison, so they were able to split their time between Madison and Clayton. Throughout Norm’s life, his love for the University of Wisconsin never wavered.

He remained connected and informed of UW news and stayed in touch with several classmates. Murray even attended Grandparents University, an intergenerational learning experience offered by UW-Madison, with his grandson, Eric.

Murray was intrigued to learn about the new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences when it, and its Founding Director, Tom Erickson, were announced. Tom Erickson’s father was Newell Erickson, the friend Murray met at UW-Madison over 70 years prior.

“My dad has always been fascinated by technology and was an early adopter of any and all electronic devices,” said Murray’s daughter, Kit Elert. “Our son, Eric, majored in Mathematics & Computer Sciences and my dad was very interested in his curriculum.”

At the end of Murray’s life, he chose to donate a portion of his estate to the universities that he felt helped shape his and his family’s careers, including UW–Eau Claire, UW–River Falls, UW–Stout, and UW–Madison. He deeply valued education and wanted to help create opportunities for Wisconsin youth.

“My dad’s children and grandchildren meant the world to him. He felt fortunate that there were so many educational opportunities available to them and wanted to see all kids have the opportunity they had,” said Elert.

Meeting room rendering
Rendering of Team Room

At UW–Madison, he chose to give to the CDIS Building for the Future Fund supporting the construction of the school’s new $260 million facility. With this gift, Murray will be recognized with a Team Room named in his honor in the new building opening in 2025.

The room will be a lasting tribute to his legacy and will serve as a space for faculty, staff, and students across campus to come together and collaborate, regardless of their major or department.

The new CDIS building will be a pillar of technology for Wisconsin and beyond and seeks to be a welcoming space for individuals across campus as well as the broader community. The new building is completely privately funded and made possible through generous gifts, including Murray’s contribution.

Throughout his life, Murray sought to make a positive impact on people throughout Wisconsin and beyond.

“My dad appreciated the cost of building a new campus and a new program. He felt whatever he could contribute would be put to good use, especially with Tom in charge,” said Elert. “I feel it is a great way to honor my dad. I know he will be proud.”

If you are interested in naming opportunities in the new building or interested in giving to the building in other ways, visit our website.