Pioneer and mentor, Madelyn Murray paved her own way

| July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments


When Madelyn Murray started out as a stockbroker, the 5-foot, 2-inch MBA graduate was not only the only woman in the room, but also the only Black woman in the room.

No matter, she thought. “I can do this.”

She went on to a successful 30-year career in finance and investments. But when starting out and seeking a job, she approached insurance companies on Wilshire Blvd.

“Why don’t you apply in Baldwin Hills?” they suggested. “You’ll never work on Wilshire Boulevard. Go see to your people.”

Undaunted, she interviewed at the stock brokerage firm Merrill Lynch. And she joined a class-action lawsuit charging the insurance industry with racial discrimination.

She got the job, and she won the lawsuit, she said triumphantly by telephone from her Brookside home last month.

Since she retired five years ago from the Bank of New York Mellon as vice president in the institutional asset management division, she has upped her mission to help pave the way for the next generation.

Madelyn’s volunteer work kicked off after she agreed to her mother’s dying wish that she would help her sister — a nun with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet / Los Angeles, Hawaii and Japan.

Murray went on to serve two terms on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Province Finance Advisory Board, and she fundraised for its founding school and her alma mater, St. Mary’s Academy, Inglewood.

“Hey, I’m not Oprah Winfrey, but I love the school, and I want to help,” she pitched to her fellow alumnae at St. Mary’s Academy.

The self-described “volunteer leader” chairs St. Mary’s Alumnae Association, developed its Belles & Books Alumnae / Student summer reading project, coordinates alumnae retreats, events and fundraisers and is a mentor to students.

Many of the events are now on Zoom or on hold, although she is reading Belles’ summer pick, “Barking to the Choir,” by Windsor Square native son Fr. Gregory Boyle.

“I want young women to know they can do it,” whether in finance or whichever career they choose, she said.

Murray has joined several women’s organizations during the course of her career — most of which “didn’t exist when I was becoming a stockbroker,” she said.

Among those that did exist was The Ebell of Los Angeles.

Much of the finance expertise she shared with St. Mary’s also benefits the venerable women’s organization on Wilshire and Lucerne boulevards.

A 20-year Ebell member, Murray has held numerous posts and is in the second year of a two-year term as finance director.

She helped democratize The Ebell’s membership and grow its numbers to a robust 600 women before the pandemic hit. She is “blessed,” she said, “to help the 125-year-old institution through this tough time.”

At the onset of her term last year, “We had a great balance of events and cash in the bank… We were booked with weddings through this year.”

Unfortunately, brides won’t be walking down the aisle at the historic clubhouse until late 2020 or even 2021.

Filming and theater events, sponsored by Netflix, Live Nation and others, are also on hiatus.

Murray is confident The Ebell will get through this.

“We don’t think The Ebell will ever, ever go away. It’s just that we have to get more creative.”

Outdoor events and pop-ups are being considered for additions to the club’s online programming.

After getting a psychology degree from UCLA, Madelyn became a retail buyer at Ohrbach’s department store (now the Petersen Automotive Museum). A double Bruin, she returned to UCLA to get her masters degree from the Anderson School of Management.

At the time, Merrill Lynch was offering an interview to any woman with an MBA. After the interview, on Wilshire Boulevard, Murray started in Merrill’s training program the day after she graduated from the Anderson School.

“It was an unusual time to be doing it as a woman, and as a Black woman,” she notes.

Three years later she moved into investment banking for corporations, foundations and cities.

Among her civic roles was as appointee to the city’s Convention Center Authority Board. She served as the board’s president at a time when Chicago and New York were drawing big numbers to its venues.

She and her board approved the issuance of bonds to expand the Los Angeles center. “It was a huge project,” she recalled — so big it would lead to the revitalization of the Figueroa Corridor and open the way for the Staples Center years later.

Her husband of 49 years, John Murray Jr. — they have two sons and three grandchildren — continues to represent the City of Los Angeles as a director for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. (Her father was a civil engineer / bridge designer for the State of California Division of Highways, now CalTrans.)

Before the pandemic, she and her husband took frequent visits to the East Bay to visit family. “We were having a good time… We were planning two to three trips a year.”

Now, she works on keeping The Ebell afloat and steering young women into the world.

“You’re going to wind up either giving your time or your money,” she tells them. “I try to help them aspire… get degrees, have a portfolio, invest when you’re young.”

It’s still “mainly a male-dominated field,” admits Murray, adding, “A lot of women are becoming CEOs and becoming financially savvy.”

She adds that, in some ways, it’s not as easy for young women today, as it was in her day, when college was affordable and she could work her way through school. But in other ways it was more difficult then.

She’s been through racial upheaval before: the 1965 riots, the 1992 Rodney King verdict and aftermath and, today, the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

BLM is huge now, and, so there will be change. I just hope that other people decide we’ve got to continuously make the changes. Freedom doesn’t just happen.”

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Category: People

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