by Ilene Murray
Some people are born to teach, and that was the case with Ilene and C. Edwin “Ed” Murray. Each had been extremely active in their respective careers when they met in 1980. He was a biology teacher, emphasizing ecology and the environment and sharing a love for travel and family history research. She was a language arts teacher with a minor in history, who also loved nature and traveling. They both taught middle school and came to know each other when Ilene replaced the English teacher on Ed’s teaching team at Brittany Woods Middle School in University City.
After their marriage, Ilene and Ed taught together at Brittany Woods until his retirement in 1996. During this time, they embraced technological advances in education that were in their infancy. Ilene started a computer writing lab and then supervised a computer center at the school, and Ed, along with his students, worked with Washington University’s science staff and the Missouri Prairie Foundation to create a small prairie in what had been an unproductive patch of weeds and grass near the school. After his retirement, Ed became education director of the St. Louis Genealogical Society and turned his hobby into a second career. He began to teach genealogy classes for the society and for the St. Louis Community College and he did research work for clients. Ilene joined him in teaching after she retired in 2000, for by this time, she had learned to love family history research as well.
Ed was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late 2004. He fought a hard battle but lost his life to that devastating illness in April 2006. He continued teaching almost until the very end because it was something he so loved doing. Today, as long-time publications director at St. Louis Genealogical Society, Ilene teaches genealogy and technology classes to adults. She lectures, writes, edits, and works on the society’s website.
Ilene continues to honor Ed’s memory in many ways. In 2012, the School District of University City and the Green Center, which maintains the prairie, dedicated the site to Ed. In 2018, Ilene set up a special Caregiver Grant in their names at Road Scholar (the former Elder Hostel), worked with the University City School District to help fund a gardening program and to enhance an art gallery, and provided funding to assist the Habitat Helpers program at the Shaw Nature Reserve. This year, she decided to create the Ilene and C. Edwin “Ed” Murray Designated Scholar Loan (DSL) at The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis as another fitting way to pay tribute to Ed and to reinforce her own desire to help others.
Ed was born and raised in University City. He believed in equality of all people and the importance of a well-rounded education. He knew the internet would change education and dreamed of virtual family field trips for students who couldn’t travel. He would be dazzled by how technology is making it possible for this generation of students to pursue their interests in ecology, the environment, and technology, which will be the focus of this new DSL.