Jim Murtaugh: An Appreciation
If the work of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation has met high standards of professionalism and contributed importantly to conservation around the world, a very large share of the credit belongs to Jim Murtaugh.
Jim shepherded Art and Liz on their life-changing 1987 trip to Africa, which led to the creation of the foundation, and Jim was their first and only choice as program director. From then on, until his retirement in June 2016, Jim served as the foundation’s principal employee. Whether officially titled program director or executive director, he executed the foundation’s day-to-day business, conserved its institutional memory, contributed quietly but decisively to its strategic direction, and very often functioned as its public face.
Those with close knowledge of the foundation were continually impressed by the thoroughness with which Jim evaluated every grant proposal and progress report that arrived upon his desk. The big picture and the small details received equally of his sharp focus, with the result that the foundation’s trustees and advisory board never wanted for pertinent, timely, and accurate information about the programs it supported, so long as the information was humanly possible to obtain. Jim seemed to forget nothing; he provided subtle, consistent guidance to grantees on grant after grant, and, in addition to developing a thorough understanding of every funded project, he kept the trustees and advisory board informed of developments concerning issues the foundation addressed while also mastering the geography of the regions in which it worked. It was a rare question that stumped him.
Jim will be greatly missed, not just by the trustees and advisory board, who have come to rely on him so heavily and gratefully, but by scores of foundation grantees, past and present, who universally appreciated the unflagging kindness and clarity that characterized all of his work on behalf of LCAOF.
In retirement Jim plans to spend a good deal of time aboard his sailboat. Everyone associated with the foundation extends to this remarkable man their fondest wishes for calm seas and fair winds.