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Couple puts $6-million where their hearts are

It is no secret around cultural organizations such as the Florida Orchestra that Ray and Nancy Murray of Clearwater are unusually generous patrons of the arts and education.

Until this week, however, few knew just how generous they could be. That became clear Tuesday night when the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay announced the largest gift in its eight-year history _ $6-million from the Murrays.

Half the money will be used to set up $1-million endowments or ongoing funds to benefit the orchestra, Ruth Eckerd Hall's educational programs and efforts to help women and troubled families.

The rest will benefit other organizations and causes assisted by the private, non-profit Community Foundation.

"They are true philanthropists," said Kathryn Holm, the orchestra's executive director. "They give because they love what they give to, and because they want to give to their community, but they don't want credit for what they give."

The Murrays actually made their donation several months ago and would have been happy to remain anonymous. After much coaxing, they agreed to let their donation be announced publicly in the hope that it might encourage others to give.

The couple agreed to release their names, in part, after Nancy Murray toured The Spring domestic violence shelter and other facilities for women that will benefit from the gift.

"God has been so good to us and we feel like we need to give back to the community," Ray Murray said Wednesday. "We want to encourage everyone to do something on their own. It doesn't have to be a huge gift, it just has to be meaningful."

As vice chairman of the Florida Orchestra, Ray Murray knows what it's like to solicit donations for a good cause. The orchestra is launching a campaign to build its endowment _ now almost $3-million, thanks to his gift _ and he said, "it's easier to ask when you give."

Murray, 68, has been an entrepreneur since starting a bicycle repair shop as a teenager. Since then, he has owned 26 companies that have made everything from boat trailers to sheet metal products for NASA to telecommunications equipment. He and his wife, who is 63, have been married 47 years and have lived on both sides of Tampa Bay.

Similarly, the Murrays' charitable interests have ranged widely _ from the orchestra and Ruth Eckerd Hall to the cancer research programs of the Tampa Bay Research Institute to educational programs at the Holocaust Museum.

Murray said he has learned from that experience that it's better to have many people supporting an institution with smaller gifts than to rely on a single benefactor for a big donation.

At the orchestra, Holm said, the value of having a broad base of support can't be understated.

"If it's a small gift it can be added to a lot of other small gifts and make a huge impact," she said.