Ed Murphy with his successor Nancy Agee.
As heroes go, Ed Murphy was probably never obvious. But there he sits today, a man whose obituary tells you just what a hero he was.
Ed died Sunday of cancer at just 61, six years after resigning as the CEO of Carilion Clinic, which he helped form, and a man whose imprint will be permanent on the medical and educational organization. Ed and former Virginia Tech president Charles Steger stepped out of the box a few years ago and formed the Virginia Tech/Carilion Medical College and Research Institute–something many said couldn’t be done.
Today, VTC has 4,000 applications for its 43 annual spots and has embarked on an ambitious–state-funded–building program that will wind up giving it 500-1,000 students, 25 new research teams and millions of dollars of investment in Roanoke.
Ed was a PhD and an M.D. who took chances, sometimes at a big personal cost, as in when he created Carilion Clinic, a physician services company focused on care. Many physicians rebelled at the dramatic change, but it stuck because Ed was a bulldog with a bone.
He was in health care consulting in the northeast upon his death as executive chairman of Management Health Solutions, but his major contribution during his career was right here and it will live a very long time.
Ed was generally thought to be a serious man with only brief incursions into humor, but when we asked him to appear on the cover of FRONT magazine as Santa Claus during our first year of operation, he did not hesitate, even when his marketing people nearly had a baby. He was great in the part and it was a popular cover of an edition where he was named the Business Person of the Year.
I wrote a history of Carilion last year and in researching it, I was amazed at just how perfectly suited each of the organization’s CEO/presidents had been from Ham Flannagan, the promoter/builder; to Tom Robertson, the business executive; to Ed the visionary; and finally to Ed’s protege Nancy Agee, who is wildly popular and perfectly suited for her time as a manager, an iconic woman and a spot-on professional.
I liked Ed, but more than that, I believe him to be one of the most important business professionals in Roanoke’s history.