Agnes Milam Murrah Scholarship

Winter 2013

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The $10,000 check from Dr. Sharon Hartin Iorio, dean of education at Wichita State University, was not the largest end-of-year contribution that the University of Oklahoma Foundation received in December 2012, but it might have been the most important in keeping a small scholarship fund alive.

Memorial funds are established with the best of intentions in times of great emotion, but without a substantial lead gift, fund sponsors often struggle to keep the fund viable. Such was the case with the Agnes Milam Murrah Scholarship, which honors the wife of the distinguished U.S. District Judge Alfred P. Murrah, for whom the ill-fated Federal Building in Oklahoma City was named.

In the wake of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building, a few out-of-state alumnae of Agnes Murrah’s sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, sent contributions in her memory, noting that Judge Murrah already had been honored with an endowed professorship at OU. A hastily organized solicitation by the sorority’s scholarship committee brought forth enough small gifts to get the fund started in the University of Oklahoma Foundation, where the group had two other similar endowments. Iorio was an early contributor, giving from the proceeds of a book she had had published by the OU Press. Unlike most of the other contributors, she had a strong personal connection to the Murrahs, both of whom were deceased.

Iorio’s grandparents had taken the 12-year-old Alfred Murrah into their farm home outside Pocasset after his mother died and his father moved away. He worked his way through OU, including law school, meeting Agnes “Babe” Milam along the way. Known to friends by his nickname, “Fish,” he and Babe were a very popular campus couple.

When his benefactor’s granddaughter, Sharon Hartin, came to OU, Agnes Murrah became her mentor, encouraging her to pledge AGD and loaning her her own sorority pin for initiation in 1964, when she was named the group’s outstanding pledge. Before her latest gift, which doubles the size of the Agnes Murrah scholarship endowment, Iorio had not realized that the annual scholarship is given to the new initiate who earns that same designation. In the future, the endowment will provide approximately $800 annually to the recipient.