Paul W. Murrill
Photo No. 2393
Paul Whitfield Murrill passed away peacefully Monday, April 2, at his home surrounded by his family. Born in St. Louis, MO, July 10, 1934, to Horace and Grace Whitfield Murrill, he grew up in Hinds County, MS, after his family moved there. A lifelong learner, his early education began in a one-room school in Pocahontas, MS, then continued in the public schools of Clinton, MS, from which he graduated in 1952. Receiving a Naval ROTC scholarship, he began his college education at the University of Mississippi, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering in 1956. While at Ole Miss he met his beloved future wife, Nancy Hoover Williams, of Lexington, MS.
Upon graduation, he received his commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy and spent the next three years as a Naval officer aboard USS Valley Forge. Thus began a life-long love for the Navy and the sea. He was initially Machine Division Officer in charge of Valley Forge s engine rooms, but always in search of a challenge he requested and received permission from the Captain to train for Officer of the Deck Underway, a position that was conferred upon him in 1958. He was later promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant (junior grade).
After discharge from the Navy, he and Nancy were married in May, 1959, and have celebrated 59 years of marriage. Dr. Murrill had a brief career as a chemical engineer at Columbia-Southern (PPG) in Lake Charles, but soon pursued higher education in chemical engineering. Encouraged by a mentor at Ole Miss, he attended Louisiana State University where he completed his Master s degree and then his Ph.D in 1963.
He was hired initially by LSU as an interim professor, but his natural leadership ability and intellect led to his being hired for a full-time position as professor in the Chemical Engineering Department. He was named head of that department, then Dean of Academic Affairs, and Provost of the University soon thereafter. In 1974, at only age 39, he was named Chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus and served in that capacity until 1981. During that time, Dr. Murrill was the 21st living American to be named Distinguished Member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and in 1978 Change Magazine named him one of the top 100 educators in the country. Under his leadership, LSU applied for and was granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and became the thirteenth university to be named a Sea Grant Institution. Paul oversaw the implementation of Title IX for women s athletics at LSU and during the country s bi-centennial (1976) he launched a special project, The Native Flora of Louisiana, with botanical artist, Margaret Stones, executing the watercolor drawings. He is a member of 13 honorary and professional societies, including the LSU and Ole Miss Alumni Halls of Fame. He wrote and edited many books, including seminal texts on Process Theory which are still in use today. In 2003, the Instrument Society of America named him one of the 50 most influential people in history in the fields of automation, instrumentation, and control technologies.
Dr. Murrill retired from LSU in 1981 and began an accomplished career in the corporate world. As a testament to his abilities, he was asked to and served on the boards of 27 publicly-traded corporations regulated by the SEC.
He was chief executive officer of Gulf States Utilities and continued on that board after it was acquired by Entergy Corporation.
He served as lead director of the board of Tidewater, Inc., which named an offshore supply ship the Paul W. Murrill in his honor. His corporate career also included serving on the boards of Piccadilly Inc, Foxboro Corporation (MA), Zygo Corporation (CT), and the Baton Rouge Water Company. From 1979 to 1997, he was an advisor to the United States Department of Energy s National Nuclear Laboratory at Oak Ridge. He served on numerous non-profit boards and foundations, including the Baton Rouge Food Bank and two years as Chairman of the Board of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady.
He was an ordained deacon at University Baptist Church, which he and Nancy joined in 1960, and over the years he taught various ages in Sunday School. He had many and varying interests: early lighting, fishing, and gardening, to name a few, but none so important to him as his family and his God.
Of his many accomplishments, the most important was that he was humble, kind, ever-loving and compassionate. During his later years, he taught a Sunday School class of his peers (some older, some younger), and this was a most meaningful experience for him. For six years, until January of this year, he wrote a newsletter he called The Peep, which began with his class and expanded to include a wide range of devoted friends in various parts of the country, who he greeted weekly as my fellow pilgrims.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Horace and Grace Murrill, and a son Paul Whitfield Murrill, Jr. He is survived by his wife Nancy; son, John (Elizabeth) of Baton Rouge; son, Britt (Kasey) of Baton Rouge, daughter-in-law, Andrea of Baton Rouge, and grandchildren, Parham, Baker, Paul, James Henry, Alexander, Boyd, Anna Grace, Gray, and Mary Elizabeth Murrill, all of Baton Rouge, as well as two step-grandchildren, Ben Shea of Los Angeles, and Ava Vasquez of Baton Rouge.
A visitation will be held on Friday, April 6th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Rabenhorst Funeral Home on Government Street in Baton Rouge. There will be additional visitation on Saturday, April 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, with a memorial service to follow. Pallbearers will be his grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Mississippi Industries for the Blind in Jackson, MS, or the charity of your choice.