A time for remembrance

Memorials took place last week at Portland State and City Hall to celebrate the life and work of Deborah Lynn Murdock, the former PSU lobbyist who died last month after a brief struggle with cancer.

Memorials took place last week at Portland State and City Hall to celebrate the life and work of Deborah Lynn Murdock, the former PSU lobbyist who died last month after a brief struggle with cancer.

Around 450 Portland State community members gathered Sunday in the Smith Memorial Ballroom at PSU.

The Ballroom memorial was emceed by The Oregonian’s political cartoonist and 1999 PSU alum Jack Ohman, and featured speeches by former U.S. Representative Les AuCoin, Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner, former PSU President Daniel O. Bernstine and a performance by Darrell Grant, of the School of Fine and Performing arts.

U.S. Representatives Darlene Hooley and Earl Blumenauer were present, as was former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts.

Most who spoke remembered Murdock as a gregarious woman who spent the last 14 years working tirelessly to better the university, whether she was lobbying on PSU’s behalf in Salem or mentoring students interested in a career in public service.

“I first met Debbie in the 1990s when I was mulling going back to college,” Ohman said. “Debbie Murdock was a friend to my efforts to return. She almost seemed to know what classes I was taking and how many credits I needed.”

Ohman said that the university “was literally Debbie’s life.”

“When PSU was happy, Debbie was happy,” he said. “No one put in more time doing more thankless tasks.”

Murdock worked out of the spotlight for years. She spent a year in AuCoin’s office when he was a Congressman, working as a legislative aide before coming to PSU in 1993. He called her one of the best aides he ever worked with.

“She was a big-hearted, candy-voiced, force of nature. Life isn’t about longevity, but quality. Debbie spent her life believing in the perfectibility of human nature,” AuCoin said. “For her, a person who had gone off track wasn’t expendable. She saw it as her job to lead people to the right choices.”

While at PSU, Murdock became the special assistant to the president for strategic planning, public policy and government relations under Bernstine.

“My name is Dan Bernstine and I spent 10 years here at PSU working for Debbie Murdock,” Bernstine said, before many of his favorite memories working with Murdock.

The Portland City Council also honored Murdock last Thursday by signing a resolution honoring her life. Part of the resolution read, “Be it resolved, that the City Council celebrates the life of Deborah Murdock, a remarkable woman and strong advocate for children, education, civic engagement and society’s under-served populations.”

“She has made Portland a much better place because of who she was,” said Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams. ” She was very warm and gave a lot of herself. She is someone I miss very much.”

Commissioner Randy Leonard, a PSU alum, remembered Murdock from his days in the State Legislature.

“Debbie Murdock, when I was in legislature, quickly became the most powerful and important voice on PSU’s behalf,” he said. “We can never thank Deborah enough for what she did for PSU.”

Murdock was born in Davenport, Iowa on May 4, 1955 to James and Vergene Murdock. She moved to San Diego, Calif. in 1961 and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from San Diego State University.

Murdock spent her entire professional life in public service, working as executive director of the Community Coordinated Child Care Council, as a staff associate for the Oregon Community College Association and as assistant director of public policy for the YMCA in Washington, D.C.

During her time at PSU, Murdock helped secure funding for several major projects, including the Native American Student and Community Center.

Murdock suffered a stroke in October 2006 that left her with temporary paralysis, yet she was back on the job within months. Over the summer, Murdock fell ill and doctors discovered soft tissue sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Murdock died Aug. 14, just weeks after the cancer was discovered.

She is survived by her sisters Kathy Bullock and Janice Lane and her brother James Richard Murdock. She has two nieces, Christi Brooks and Bethany Whitwer, and two nephews, Paul Brooks and Jonathan Whitwer.

Murdock’s former assistant Jesse Cornett is now filling her position on an interim basis. A search for a permanent replacement has not yet begun.

To make a donation to the Debbie Murdock Scholarship Fund, make checks payable to:

PSU FoundationPresident’s OfficePO Box 751Portland, OR 97207