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Photo of Murray, Darrel L

Darrel L Murray, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Biological Sciences


Darrel Lee Murray, 87, passed away peacefully on Oct. 23, 2023, after a fast and furious battle with illness.

Born in 1936 in Soldier, Kansas, Darrel was the first in his family to attend college. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Emporia State College in Emporia, Kansas and went on to earn his PhD in Biology from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. It was at Purdue where he met his wife Carol Suzanne Lebeda. Shortly after the opening of Circle Campus, Darrel became a devoted faculty member at the University of Illinois Chicago where he built an active research program in population biology and biology education. In 1970, Darrel was accepted into the Commission on Undergraduate Education in the Biological Sciences in Washington DC and played a role in the planning of the first Earth Day, developing educational material for high schools, colleges, and universities. Shortly afterwards, Darrel did his sabbatical at Cornell University working to better understand how students learn biological concepts and the philosophy of learning science.

Darrel was a dedicated instructor who devoted himself to the teaching of introductory biology. He implemented active learning strategies years before that was a buzzword. He was uncompromising, demanding the best from each and every one of his students (of which there are thousands of his students out there inspired from his instruction). Darrel, reviewed, edited, authored, and coauthored a number of textbooks and lab manuals geared toward the expansion of the student learning experiences.

As a conservationist, he was deeply concerned about the environment. Darrel was a great naturalist with an eye for details other people might miss. He and Carol worked with other naturalists to preserve and restore a unique, small area of undeveloped land that contained undisturbed prairie land. He dedicated much of his time to the Wolf Road Prairie located in Westchester, Illinois. Among many other volunteer efforts at the prairie, Darrel worked to identify the native plantings found in the prairie and could often be found there counting plants, placing particular emphasis on seed germination and plant survivorship. His stewardship of the Wolf Road Prairie is the reason that natural area persists as an intact prairie remnant to this day.

An active La Grange resident for over 50 years, Darrel and Carol, devoted their volunteer time in a variety of efforts related to conservation, science, education, and politics. There would always be political signs in their front lawn, and they made calls to encourage voters. Darrel spoke to various groups on a variety of biology/ecology topics. Darrel loved to garden, as can be seen by the many prairie flowers, grasses, and tomatoes found in their yard.

Darrel was preceded in death by his mother, Marian Georgia Ernst Murray; his father, Lloyd Leonard Murray; and his sister, Janet Sue Murray Gosselin.

Darrel is survived by his wife of 59 years, Carol Suzanne Lebeda Murray; his children, Shannon (Joel) Murray Weinberger, Joelle (Curt Schulz) Murray, and Todd Murray. Darrel loved and enjoyed getting to know Todd's, now separated spouse, Jill Cooper and his step kids, Anya, Saige, and Rome. He was an engaged grandfather to his four grandchildren, Aidan and Kellan Weinberger and Nicholas and Samson Schulz. He spent much of his time devoted to learning all he could about what they were learning in school and what activities and games they were interested in playing. He attended soccer games, ultimate frisbee games, and kart/car racing events, visited them at college, and worked hard to get to know their friends and their friends’ families.

A service will be held by the family in the spring. Please email for more information.

Donations in memory of Darrel L. Murray may be made online to Save the Prairie Society.