Burton “Burt” J. McMurtry, a highly regarded Stanford leader, volunteer and philanthropist, died peacefully at his home in Palo Alto on Sept. 2 surrounded by family. He was 83.
Burt McMurtry, who died Sept. 2, helped shape Stanford’s academic initiatives over four decades through his work as an adviser and volunteer. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)
McMurtry was renowned in Silicon Valley as an early venture capital investor. At Stanford, he was equally influential, shaping academic initiatives over the course of four decades through his work as an adviser and volunteer. He served on Stanford’s Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2008, including four years as chair. Earlier this year, McMurtry and his wife, Deedee, received Stanford’s Degree of Uncommon Man and Degree of Uncommon Woman, the university’s highest award honoring alumni.
“Burt inspired us all with his lifelong curiosity and his commitment to higher education,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “I am profoundly grateful for Burt’s insight, his thoughtful service, and his generosity to Stanford over the last 40 years. He and Deedee have had a tremendous impact on every part of our university community, from the arts to engineering, medicine, graduate education and economic policy research. We will continue to feel Burt’s contributions at Stanford for decades to come.”
Silicon Valley pioneer
McMurtry was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and met his wife in high school. They both attended Rice University and moved west so that McMurtry could pursue graduate studies at Stanford while working for Sylvania Electric Projects. He earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1959 and a doctorate in 1962.
After working as an engineer, McMurtry pursued a career in Silicon Valley’s emerging venture capital field. He co-founded several venture capital partnerships, including Technology Venture Investors and Institutional Venture Associates, and helped fund companies including Adaptec, Altera, Compaq, Intuit, Linear Technology Corporation, Microsoft, Nellcor, PMC Sierra, Quantum, SpectraLink, Sun Microsystems, Synopsys, VeriFone and Visio.
“Burt had a reputation in the Valley not only for being a great venture investor, but also for having the highest ethical standards,” said President Emeritus John Hennessy, the Shriram Family Director of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. “He brought these qualities to his work at Stanford, where he worked tirelessly to advance the university’s mission while setting a high bar for volunteers.”
Champion for the arts at Stanford
The McMurtrys developed an interest in the arts during their earliest years together, starting with a love of classical music and visits to local arts fairs. While Burt was attending Stanford, Deedee joined the Stanford museum as a volunteer. Later, they would serve as volunteers together.
Burt McMurtry and his wife, Deedee, received Stanford’s Degree of Uncommon Man and Degree of Uncommon Woman, the university’s highest award honoring alumni. (Image credit: Steve Castillo)
“Burt and Deedee were a truly collaborative team,” said Roberta Denning, ’75, MBA ’78, who worked with the couple as chair of the Stanford Arts Advisory Council. “Their individual personalities complemented each other and their shared enthusiasm was contagious.”
During his 11-year tenure as a member of the Board of Trustees, McMurtry served on a review committee for the Cantor Arts Center that examined the museum’s relatively isolated location on campus. The committee suggested consolidating arts-related activities near the museum – a recommendation that would ultimately give rise to an arts district on campus.
In 2004, McMurtry began speaking with local collectors Harry W. “Hunk” and Mary Margaret “Moo” Anderson about Stanford’s deepening commitment to the arts. These conversations helped pave the way for the Anderson family’s 2011 decision to give the core of its extensive postwar American collection to the university. The McMurtrys contributed generously to the building that houses the Anderson Collection at Stanford University as well as the construction of Bing Concert Hall, which opened in 2013.
Perhaps their most visible legacy on campus, however, is the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art & Art History. The McMurtrys made the decision to support this project during a 2007 flight home from a Stanford event in Washington, D.C. As the couple began discussions with then President Hennessy about relocating the department to be closer to the Cantor Arts Center, Hennessy asked if they would consider making the lead gift.
“We thought about it for about five minutes and said, ‘Sure,’” Burt McMurtry once said.
The 96,000-square-foot McMurtry Building opened in 2015. In her remarks at the dedication, Deedee McMurtry noted, “We wanted a ‘wow’ building. We got a ‘wow’ building.”
A thoughtful and effective leader
McMurtry joined the university’s network of major gift volunteers in 1981 and went on to advise Stanford leaders throughout three university-wide campaigns.
Recalling his many conversations with McMurtry, President Emeritus Gerhard Casper said, “When Burt turned to you and wanted to hear what you had to say, he was really curious. Good listeners are people who are curious.”
McMurtry served on the School of Engineering Dean’s Strategic Council, the Engineering Venture Fund, the Engineering Major Gifts Committee, the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers, the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Graduate School of Business, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Advisory Board, the Stanford Arts Advisory Council, the Cantor Arts Center Director’s Advisory Board and as a major gift volunteer for Stanford Bio-X.
As vice chair of the campaign for the Stanford Graduate Fellowship program, McMurtry helped the university secure a more flexible source of funding for Stanford graduate students in science, math and engineering. The program represented a historic shift away from reliance on declining federal support and strengthened Stanford’s research enterprise across academic disciplines.
This focus on interdisciplinary work became a hallmark of The Stanford Challenge, the university-wide campaign from 2006 to 2011 that focused on finding solutions to a wide range of real-world problems. McMurtry played a key role during the campaign, both as board chair and as a member of the campaign executive committee, traveling around the world to engage Stanford alumni and friends.
Bruce Dunlevie, MBA ’84, a longtime friend and business associate who served with McMurtry on the Board of Trustees, said McMurtry’s intellectual curiosity and infectious enthusiasm permeated his work and made him a thoughtful and effective leader.
“Burt permitted any and all topics to be raised. He encouraged people to ask questions. He wanted to find the best answer that was in the room and didn’t ever pretend to know it himself,” Dunlevie said.
McMurtry is survived by his wife of 62 years, Deedee; his children, Cathy and John McMurtry, MS ’86, and their respective spouses James Mclaughlin and Janet Moody; a brother, James McMurtry III, MD; four grandchildren, Evan Lodes, ’07, Amanda Wu, ’09, MA ’10, Garrett McMurtry and Suzanna McMurtry; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. in Memorial Church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Burt’s memory to Stanford University. Gifts may be mailed to: Stanford University, Development Services, P. O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309-0466. Gifts may also be made online at http://giving.stanford.edu/goto/writeingift by typing “Burton J. McMurtry Memorial Fund” in the space provided.
SAN MARINO, Los Angeles County — “Blue Boy” is getting a long-awaited makeover, and the public can watch as one of the world’s most recognizable paintings gets a little nip here, a nice tuck there and some splashes of fresh paint (blue presumably) just in time for the eternally youthful adolescent to mark his 250th birthday.
Thomas Gainsborough’s stunning oil on canvas featuring a British youth dressed nearly all in blue has been one of the most sought-out attractions at Southern California’s Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens since its arrival in 1921.
But it hasn’t had a substantial restoration in at least 97 years, and over time it’s become a bit torn and tattered, some of its colors have faded, and worse still, some of its paint is beginning to flake.
All that begins to stop Saturday when the Huntington’s senior paintings conservator, Christina O’Connell, goes to work armed with an array of 21st century tools to restore an 18th century masterpiece.
She’ll have a microscope that, at 6 feet, is taller than she is and can zoom in on the painting’s smallest details and magnify them 25 times. She’ll have numerous digital X-radiography and infrared reflectography images of the work that she’s been compiling and studying over the past year. And, of course, there will be paint created to match what Gainsborough was using circa 1770.
With all that at her disposal, she expects to have “Project Blue Boy” completed about this time next year and the kid back on the Huntington’s Thornton Gallery wall, alongside other stunning portraits from the era, sometime in early 2020.
As O’Connell toils in the same area where “Blue Boy” has hung for nearly a century, visitors will be able to walk up and watch what she’s doing. And, during occasional breaks, she’ll stop to explain it to them.
“One of the reasons why the painting hasn’t undergone such an extensive conservation treatment before was because people always wanted to keep it on view. So this is a way to address the conservation needs of the painting while keeping it on view — so the visitors won’t miss him,” she said with a smile as she took a break from her work in the gallery last week.
Indeed, “Blue Boy” — whoever he was — has become a worldwide icon since Gainsborough put him on display to acclaim at Britain’s Royal Academy exhibition of 1770. The artist titled the work “A Portrait of a Young Gentleman,” but when stunned viewers saw the full-length portrait of an adolescent dressed all in bright-blue silk, from his tunic to the breeches extending just below his knees, they quickly gave him a nickname.
Although Gainsborough, one of the greatest British painters of the 18th century, is renowned as a master of the brush, O’Connell says she won’t be nervous while a crowd watches her every move when she takes up her own brush to add touches to replace what the painting has lost to the ravages of time.
“We’re dealing with a lot of the usual suspects when it comes to a painting this age as far as condition issues are concerned,” she said, adding that she has repaired much worse, including a painting that was once handed to her in pieces.
Art historians have never figured out exactly who “Blue Boy” was, although they have a pretty good suspect, said Melinda McCurdy, the Huntington’s associate curator for British art and O’Connell’s partner in the restoration project.
“It could be an image of Gainsborough Dupont, who was the artist’s nephew,” McCurdy said. “He lived with the family, so he would have been a readily available model.”
McCurdy says it’s important that people see the care, which isn’t cheap or easy, that must be taken to maintain such treasured objects.
“We’re not just a building with pretty things on the wall,” she says. “We take care of them. We preserve them for the future.”
Listen up Mother Nature. I’ve got a bone to pick with you. Not only did you create the postponement of the Hull in One golf tournament, but you made organizers of the Women for Men’s Health pool party at Hotel Arts somewhat stressed. But the terrific team at Hotel Arts can turn on a dime and seamlessly moved the Sept. 11 party indoors to Raw Bar.
The Women for Men’s Health (WFMH) Group, with the support of the Prostate Cancer Center (PCC), was established in 2016. Since inception, the group has raised more than $250,000 and has secured more than $1 million in funding for expansion of Men’s Health Initiatives at the PCC. Readers may recall the inaugural WFMH gala held this past January at Hotel Arts was an enormous success. And the plans unveiled at the pool party for the second annual event — The Big Ball taking place Feb. 1,2019 had all in attendance buzzing with anticipation.
A powerful statistic that hits at the heart of the need for Men’s Health Initiatives comes when one looks at the top 13 causes of death in Alberta. This includes all cancers, heart disease, accidental or unintentional injury, diabetes, stroke, chronic liver disease and respiratory disease.
Men lead women in every category except one. Women die more frequently than men from Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. The reason for this is that men simply do not live long enough to die from this. The inequity in gender health becomes even more staggering when one looks into men’s mental health struggles. Annually, more than 500 Albertans die of suicide. Of these, more than 400 are males between the ages of 30-69.
That is why the focus of The Big Ball will be men’s mental health. WFMH founder Dr. Shelley Spaner spoke eloquently as to the cause for support and took a great deal of pride in introducing Karen Gosbee as the ambassador for the 2019 ball. Gosbee’s husband George took his own life in November last year. Karen has since become a phenomenal advocate and community leader in mental health. Her address this night was powerful indeed and will no doubt ensure the Big Ball will be an enormous success.
Among the select group of guests in attendance were: Hotel Arts Group general manager and PCC board member Mark Wilson and his wife Kerry; philanthropist and community leader Ann McCaig; Freedom 55 Financial’s Danielle Sutton and her daughter Olivia; Brandsmith’s Shea Kerwood; YYC Cycle’s Andrew Obrecht; PCC executive director Pam Heard with colleagues Shannon De Vall, Eva Moreau and Anthony Prymack; ARC Financial’s Nancy Lever; PCC board members Maryse St-Laurent and Andrew Abbott; Kathy Hays; Patti O’Connor; bestselling author Kirstie McLellan Day; Dr. Marty Duffy; Dr. Geoff Gotto; Dr. Anthony Cook; Lana Rogers; and Kim Berjian.
Please mark your calendar for Feb. 1 and plan to attend and support The Big Ball at Hotel Arts.
The owner of Indefinite Arts Centre says increased demand for the program’s services for people with disabilities warrants an expansion but his hands are currently tied as he awaits a City of Calgary decision on what will become of the attached arena.
On February 20, the roof atop the arena at the Fairview Arena and Community Hall collapsed after the building in the 8,000 block of Fairmount Drive Southeast, was deemed unsafe and closed to the public. The structural damage to the part of the building that housed Indefinite Arts Centre was minor but the studio was forced to vacate the premises.
The art program was displaced for nearly five months, operating temporarily out of the Shane Homes YMCA, before it was permitted to return to Fairview in July.
The building has been without heat after the gas lines were severed and the artists have resorted to wearing jackets indoors in an attempt to stay warm.
CTV Calgary was notified of the heat concerns and, after the story aired, Indefinite Arts Centre’s owner, Jung-Suk Ryu, says he received a call from a senior official in Mayor Nenshi’s office stating she wasn’t pleased that Ryu had discussed the issue with the media.
“My responsibility as the CEO of this organization is to be a strong advocate for our needs first,” Ryu told CTV on Friday. “The fact that it may not have been taken so well is very upsetting.”
In a statement, Nenshi’s office stated their concerns. “We continue to be committed to helping any organization that does important work in Calgary to the extent that we can but it is always easier if we hear it directly first instead of through other channels.”
Ryu says he has been supported in his effort to have the issue addressed. “The general consensus of our team members was I did the right thing when we went to the media to talk about the issues facing this building. We talked about some of the frustrations
Contactors from Indefinite Arts Centre’s insurance company have since restored heat to the studio.
Ryu hopes the City of Calgary will come to a decision on the fate of the property in the near future. “We’re in an eyesore of a building. This affects the community, not only the community that we serve but the broader community of Fairview.”
A stakeholders meeting was held Thursday night to discuss potential options for the building but the arts centre will not permitted to expand or renovate until a decision on the property is finalized.