Thursday, September 21, 2023

In Memoriam: UTSA remembers Steven Murdock, former State Demographer and founder of Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research

In Memoriam: UTSA remembers Steven Murdock, former State Demographer and founder of Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research

APRIL 13, 2023 Steven Murdock, former State Demographer and UTSA faculty member, died on April 7, 2023. He was 75.

Murdock joined UTSA faculty in 2004 as the Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair in Management Science and Statistics. As part of his appointment, UTSA created the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research (IDSER). Murdock served as its inaugural director.

As the inaugural state demographer from 2001 to 2007, Murdock headed the Texas State Data Center, a network of 45 university, state, regional and municipal agencies that provide access to demographic information about the socioeconomic characteristics of Texas. Credited as the originator of the position, Murdock presented more than 50 times each year to groups such as Texas legislators, superintendents of education and other academics on the growth and changing distributions of Texas' population.

“Steve was committed to making the next generation of demographers look more like the population of the state of Texas.”

He was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as director of the Census Bureau in 2007, and held the position from January 2008 to January 2009.

“Dr. Murdock’s vision created a unique doctoral program that remains the only applied demography Ph.D. program in the country,” said Professor of Demography Johnelle Sparks. “Steve was committed to making the next generation of demographers look more like the population of the state of Texas. He created a program that has served many first-generation and racial/ethnic minority students that are contributing critical perspectives to addressing population-based problems. The Department of Demography owes its success to his vision.”

A nationally respected demographer, Murdock was named one of the 50 most influential Texans by Texas Business in 1997. He was a member of numerous national organizations and honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, the Population Association of America, the Rural Sociological Society, the Southern Regional Demographic Association, the Southwestern Sociological Society and the Southern Sociological Society.

“Steve was a bit of a maverick with a strong will, and he did not mince words,” said Professor of Demography and current Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter. “His style was to speak clearly and to engage with facts. He worked effectively with politicians regardless of party, providing them with data and with simple and straight forward interpretations to facilitate data driven policy. His contributions to a better Texas and to the field of applied demography are difficult to quantify, but there are few who have done more.” 

In addition to his position at UTSA, he has held named professorships in sociology at Texas A&M University and Rice University.

“Steve had a long, distinguished career in demography, rural sociology and impact analysis," said Michael Cline '10, state demographer of North Carolina and alumnus of the Ph.D. program at UTSA. "Most knew him as the first State Demographer of Texas, the 'Jack Webb of statistics,' who used presentations filled with numbers to get Texas to realize that Texas was changing and that closing educational attainment gaps would ensure a better future for all."

Murdock earned his doctorate in demography and sociology from the University of Kentucky. He authored 11 books and more than 150 articles and technical reports on the implications of current and future demographic and socioeconomic change.

Murdock was born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota., on June 2, 1948. He is survived by his spouse of 27 years, Mary Zey of Austin; stepson, James Collins Ferrell of Houston; grandson, George Collins Ferrell; sister and brother-in-law, Joanne and Roger Lonbaken of Pierre, South Dakota.; and brother and sister-in-law, Lee and June Murdock of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Murdock's life will be celebrated at an open memorial from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 411 RR 620 S., Lakeway, Texas. Call 512-263-1511 for information. The public is invited.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. Steven Murdock and Dr. Mary Zey Demography Fellowship at UTSA. To give, visit online at Choose “Other” in the drop-down menu and enter “In memory of Steven Murdock.” Or, mail your gift, payable to UTSA, to UTSA Gift Services, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, Texas 78249. On the memo line, write “In memory of Steven Murdock.”  Please call 210-458-4130 with questions.

Amanda Cerreto

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