Westmont Magazine Memories of Murchison
Despite his brief tenure as a Westmont trustee, Hugh Murchison left a lasting legacy. He and his wife, Pauline, gave the principal gift for the Hugh R. Murchison Physical Education Complex.
Attending a retreat with the Warrior basketball team made quite an impression on him. When he learned that college athletes had competed for 21 years without adequate facilities and equipment, he decided to help.
“We have long been interested in Westmont as one of the finest Christian colleges in the nation,” he explained. “It is our desire to attract young people to Westmont to advance its physical education and intercollegiate program, as well as to enable the college to offer a complete program in physical education to enhance the academic program of the institution.”
The Kenneth and Clara Murchison Foundation made an initial grant of $400,000 and offered a $400,000 loan to assist in building the complex, which cost $1.2 million.
Philanthropy was well established in Murchison’s life, and he figured prominently in social and church work in the Los Angeles area.
A longtime member of South Hollywood Presbyterian Church, he served as a ruling elder there for 20 years.
He joined the board of the Union Rescue Mission of Los Angeles in 1932 and served as president from 1941 to 1966. He helped some 300,000 people and assisted in the mission’s camp for boys.
He became nationally known as an authority on Skid Row rehabilitation work. During his long term as president, the mission became the largest organization of its kind in the nation.
Well known in Los Angeles business circles, he was a stockbroker and investment banker and worked for Walston and Co. as an account executive until his retirement.
Murchison acquired radio station KPOL in Los Angeles in 1951, and built it into one of the most powerful voices in Southern California. He began broadcasting one-minute messages from the Bible, urging listeners to read scripture, attend church and make Christ the center of family life.
He was committed to Christian higher education and supported the Hindustan Bible Institute in India as well as Westmont. Jackson College in Honolulu awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws.
A long-time member of Christian Business Men’s Committee, Murchison also served as a trustee of the Gideons Society.
Born in Washington, D.C., in 1896, he served in the Navy during World War I and went to Texas A&M College. Moving to California in 1922, he began working as an investment banker in 1925.
With his wife, Pauline, he had two daughters and a son. After he died in 1967, Pauline continued to support the college through gifts and an annuity agreement.