M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Today would have been our benefactor, Jack Murdock’s, 105th birthday. Born in 1917 in Southeast Portland, Jack would go on to become a veteran, an entrepreneur, a mentor, a pilot, an outdoorsman, and a philanthropist. In each of these roles, Jack embodied a spirit of innovation that helped him see the potential for new ways to serve those around him and make the world a better place for all.  

Jack believed unfailingly in the power of innovation for the common good. At age 16, he wrote, “I have at present several ideas for inventions, which if put into use would be of great benefit to the people of the world.” When he co-developed a new version of the oscilloscope, a critical component of many emerging technologies that would contribute significantly to the emergence of Portland’s technology industry, he was living out the dream he had for his career at age 16. Even in his Human Relations work at Tektronix, he employed innovative thinking that prioritized employee well-being and mental health at a time when few companies were thinking this way. Already he was creating ripple effects of opportunity and flourishing for those around him.

Jack was a visionary, but he was a humble one. Just as he could not have imagined the many ways his oscilloscope would be used today, he could not anticipate the unique needs and opportunities of our current moment. But he trusted those who would.

When he died in 1971 and entrusted $90 million to form what would become the Murdock Trust, Jack was carrying on this legacy of thoughtful, creative, humble vision. He had a dream for what those resources could do: “nurture and enrich the educational, cultural, social, and spiritual lives of individuals, families, and communities.” Yet knowing that he could not see what was coming, he built flexibility into the Trust’s guidance, communicating his faith that future stewards of his money would invest in ways that would further the common good, however that might look in coming decades.

Yet Jack did not just leave behind assets. He left a legacy of values too. For while much has changed since Jack’s death, and even more since his birth 105 years ago, Jack’s values remain steadfast. Humility. Gratitude. Creativity. Innovation. Collaboration. A listening posture. A reliable presence. These are the values the Trust has always sought to embrace and embody in our work.

As we enter a new season of service at the Trust under the leadership of our fifth CEO, Romanita Hairston, we are excited to continue this legacy. Jack trusted that those who would receive this mantle of leadership would guide the Trust in unleashing the creative forces of those in our region, in whatever new and innovative ways were possible. The future was bright to Jack Murdock and it is bright today thanks, in part, to his work and vision. With gratitude for Jack’s life and legacy, and with this same belief in the great potential for what our region can hold, be, and accomplish, we celebrate him today.

Happy birthday, Jack!

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