Attorney supported cultural exploration

d_murdochThe bridges David Murdoch built during his life aren’t the kind that stand out in a place like Pittsburgh, unless you know where to look for them.

They’ve connected high school students to formative experiences in foreign countries, business executives to opportunities overseas, nonprofit leaders to people who can help advance their work, and curious people to faraway stories that cast new light on Pittsburgh.

David Murdoch, a partner at the Downtown law firm K&L Gates and former German Honorary Consul in Pittsburgh, died Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a battle with cancer. He was 73.

“He loved to bring people together who wouldn’t meet under other circumstances,” said Steven Sokol, former president of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, where Mr. Murdoch served as a board member. “He made it possible for people in Pittsburgh to expand their horizons and see the world. That kind of exposure changed people’s lives.”

It changed his as well. Mr. Murdoch of Sewickley first traveled to Germany at 15 as an exchange student and formed a lifelong bond with his host family. He returned in 1961 as a college student and watched East German soldiers erect the concrete and barbed wire that split Berlin in two. Seven years later, he returned as an Army officer.

“He became a lifelong friend of Germany,” German Consul General Horst Freitag said in 2010 when he presented Mr. Murdoch with Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit.

Mr. Murdoch graduated Harvard Law School in 1967 and joined the firm that became K&L Gates when he returned from Germany in 1971.

“When I came to the firm 35 years ago, Dave Murdoch was an exacting young partner with an intense devotion to client service. If Dave gave you a repeat assignment — and this was far from certain — you understood that you had navigated a rite of passage,” said Peter Kalis, the firm’s chairman and global managing partner.

While managing his career and volunteer obligations, Mr. Murdoch and his wife, Joan, were “absolutely extraordinary parents” to two daughters and a son, said Alan Finegold of Florida, a close friend of Mr. Murdoch’s from law school.

“Whenever David was interested in something or involved in something, he went into it with both feet, so to speak, and was extremely generous with his time and attention,” Finegold said.

Mr. Murdoch served on the boards of schools, libraries, the American Council on Germany and World Learning, the international nonprofit that helped him return to Germany in 1961.

He founded the Global Travel Scholarship program in 2004, the “hallmark of his contributions to the World Affairs Council,” which has sent 116 rising seniors to 20 countries for three to five weeks, council Board President Gerald Voros said.

“He’s the one who kept it going,” Voros said. “He’d keep track of these students, too. He wanted to know what happened with them after they got back … He was a special kind of guy.”

Murdoch is survived by his wife; daughters, Christina and Deborah; son Tim; and grandchildren Wylie and Mac.

Visitation is scheduled for Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Sewickley Presbyterian Church, 414 Grant St. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Click here to read the online Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article.

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