MIAMI COUNTY — One of the founding members and former board presidents of the Miami County Foundation is retiring from the board this month, leaving behind a legacy of work and generosity for the betterment of Miami County residents.
Doug Murray, who is also a retired CPA from the accounting firm Murray Wells Wendeln & Robinson in Piqua, remembers his roots along with the 30-plus-year journey the foundation has taken to get to where they are today.
“I came to town in 1972. I’m originally from Covington,” Murray said. Murray worked on a dairy farm before eventually moving to Piqua and opening an accounting firm.
Choosing Miami County
Murray recalled the beginnings of the Miami County Foundation with Richard Hunt, Joanna Hill Heitzman, and Dr. Dick Adams. Hunt, a Troy native, organized Miami County Broadcasting in 1946. A year later the county’s first radio station, WPTW-AM, went on the air.
Murray worked with Hunt as a consultant when Hunt was traveling through Piqua and began working more closely with him in the 1970s. After Hunt’s wife and their two children passed away, Hunt was looking for a way to leave the wealth of his estate in Miami County.
“Here was a guy who was very successful, but had no family left,” Murray said.
In 1985, Hunt decided to go ahead and follow up on his idea, and the Piqua-Miami County Foundation was born.
“Subsequently, as we grew, we became more interested in other areas in Miami County,” Murray said. This resulted in the foundation becoming simply the Miami County Foundation.
Adams, a state representative from Troy, and Heitzman, a local broadcasting journalist who founded Access Piqua Television, also came on board.
“We kind of used that philosophy from then on that every area of Miami County was represented on our board,” Murray said. He noted that one of the keys to the foundation’s success was getting community leaders to take part on their board.
“We want people who are leaders, who participate, who know a lot of people in the county,” Murray said.
Murray served as president of the board until Hunt passed away in 2002.
“He wanted me to be president,” Murray said.
After Hunt’s passing, Murray told the rest of the board that it was time to have regular movements in the president seat.
Locals helping locals
“He wanted our foundation to be Miami County citizens serving people in Miami County,” Murray said.
Hunt’s vision for the foundation can still be found in their mission statement, “To effectively assist, encourage and promote the health, education and welfare of the citizens of Miami County, OH, by soliciting, receiving and administering assets exclusively for the charitable needs of the community. The Miami County Foundation endeavors to focus on ‘People Helping People’ within the community.”
“We have a good investment community,” Murray said. “Things are moving along like he dreamed.”
The foundation helps local nonprofit organizations, food shelters, the Salvation Army, and so on. They have also funded building projects in the past.
In 2016, the foundation gave away a little over $600,000 in grant funding.
“We actually give away 5 percent of our market assets every year,” Murray said, which amounts to between $500,000-600,000 a year.
The foundation also gives away numerous scholarships, which Murray refers to as one their “proudest moments.”
“You wouldn’t believe some the letters we get from parents,” Murray said. “It’s making a big difference for kids in Miami County to get an education.”
The foundation has been approached by other foundations with the suggestion of possible merges, but Murray said that the foundation has stuck with the goal of helping Miami County residents.
“We’ve always maintained the idea what he wanted,” Murray said, referencing Hunt.
Now, though, Murray is finding it is time to step back from the foundation’s board. For Murray, he believed it was possible for a person to be on a board too long, and so he decided “it was time to move on.”
“I’m going to be 75 years old before too long,” Murray said.
Murray has also been a member on the Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC) parent board, a trustee on the Miami County YMCA board, a current board member on Premier Health Partners for 10 years, a former board president for Edison State Community College, and more.
Even though Murray is a retired CPA, he maintains his license in order to consult with the boards on which he is serving, such as being a committee chair at Premier Health Partners.
Murray has also served the community with the Piqua Rotary Club, Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, Mainstreet Piqua, and more. Murray recalled how he was raised on a farm, participating in several 4-H clubs, so volunteer work has been ingrained in him since he was young.
“My highlights have been in being a volunteer,” Murray said.
Impacting the community
In addition to serving on boards and volunteering for the community, Murray worked behind the scenes for major contributions that have left an impact on the community’s history.
One example was, approximately 34 years ago, when Murray — along with Jerry Easley of Piqua — came up with the idea for a local festival that lasted for three decades.
“We came up with the idea of the Heritage Festival in Piqua,” Murray said. “We thought about it for awhile.” Murray said that they approached another community member and well-known volunteer, Lou Havenar, at the time to help organize the festival.
“They operated for 30-plus years before they closed it down,” Murray said. “It was great … It took awhile to get it going.”
Murray remained a member of the Heritage Festival board for a number of years.
Another highlight for Murray was when he was the head of the strategic planning committee at Miami County YMCA when they built the Robinson Branch.
“It has been really amazing to see,” Murray said. “I’m really a kid at heart when it comes to seeing what happens at Y’s.”
Growing new roots
Murray’s own family has grown and continued to blossom in Miami County. He and his wife have been married for 51 years.
“She’s been with me 100 percent on everything,” Murray said. “She and I met while we were both in college.”
Murray was working on earning his BBA in accounting from the University of Cincinnati as well as working as a co-op student at GM when his wife Bonnie was working on earning her MBA from Miami University.
“One of our success stories is how we’re both healthy and quite active still,” Murray said.
All four of their children and their seven grandchildren live in Miami County. Murray and his wife keep busy attending sporting events their grandchildren are involved in and other activities with their “close-knit family.”
“It’s very, very enjoyable when all of them live close to you,” Murray said. “Things go your way sometimes.”
Murray plans to spend more time with his family, as well as devoting time to boards he is still volunteering on, like Premier Health Partners.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336