Charles McMurdo

A Quarter Century of Giving from the University’s Oldest Alum

Charles McMurdo (Engineering ’29)

In 1929, Charles McMurdo walked the Lawn at the University of Virginia, graduating from the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Today, at 103 years old, he is the oldest living alumnus of the University.

He’s also one of the engineering school’s most consistent benefactors. Mr. McMurdo has made a gift to SEAS every year since 1981.

His great-grandson, Matthew Vinson, followed in his footsteps in May, walking the Lawn to graduate from SEAS. Mr. Vinson gains inspiration from Mr. McMurdo, whom he calls Great-Granddaddy Mac.

Mr. Vinson cherishes hearing his great-grandfather tell stories of growing up on a Montana farm and attending U.Va. in the 1920s. After choosing U.Va., Mr. McMurdo made his way across the country on a cattle train for five days before catching a passenger train in Chicago.

Once in Charlottesville, he lived and worked at his uncle’s Albemarle County farm, riding a motorcycle he had bought for $40 to the University after milking cows in the morning.

Mr. Vinson remembers his great-grandfather telling him how students signed up for classes by visiting professors in their offices and asking for their approval. Mr. McMurdo could determine the popularity of a class by the length of the line coming out of the office door.

Mr. Vinson visits often with his great-grandfather and is impressed with the older man’s keen intellect and constant thankfulness for his family and fulfilling life. While he and his great-grandfather are divided by 80 years and vast changes in culture and technology, they are bonded by their family’s natural tendency to keep life simple and orderly.

Mr. Vinson now drives the 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity that his great-grandfather drove until he was 99 years old. He has driven the car between Ashland and Charlottesville for two years to attend classes.

Soon after he became the new owner, Mr. Vinson discovered a detailed record of the car’s 20-year maintenance history. It’s a point of pride for him to keep up that impeccable handwritten record started by his Great-Granddaddy Mac.

Mr. McMurdo’s thoughtful and consistent gifts will keep the School of Engineering running for years to come.