The DFA acoloyte helped take his book from idea to publishing phenomenon in six months

January 19, 2011 — 2:46 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

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Gordon Murray died on Saturday in his Burlingame home after a two-year battle with brain cancer. His passing came after years of advocacy of sensible investing, culminating in a book that has become a publishing phenomenon.

The 60-year-old began writing, “The Investment Answer” in earnest this summer after he was given six months to live, in the wake of a scan that revealed his glioblastoma had advanced. He was prodded along with help from his friend and financial advisor, Dan Goldie, 47, who helped organize the project and write the book. See: Two DFA advisors win big book contract after 'Dying banker’ article in NYTimes.

Murray’s advocacy was rooted in a sense that the investment business had taken a wrong turn. Fueled by his disenchantment with Wall Street after a successful career there, he was determined to make matters better.

“When I entered the business, illegal and unethical were the same,” he said in an RIABIZ interview over Thanksgiving . “Now there’s a huge difference. Wall Street got much more skilled about crossing the line of illegality.”

Murray worked as a Goldman Sachs bond salesman before becoming a managing director for Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston. After 2001 he became a consultant for Dimensional Fund Advisors. Goldie makes heavy use of DFA funds in his practice.

My eyes were first opened to the Herculean effort behind the Murray-Goldie book when I read about it in the New York Times over Thanksgiving. I immediately reached out to interview the two authors because they exist so squarely in the RIA business and live close by in the Bay area. See: 'Dying banker’s last instructions’ article in New York Times sends book sales soaring for two DFA advisors/authors.

Despite calls from major news organizations and publishers all over the world, the two men each graciously granted long interviews with me that day and left no subject matter off limits. When I spoke to Murray, he was past the point where doctors believed he would survive. I wasn’t sure how he would be or how I should act in the (telephonic) presence of someone in such an unenviable position.

Within moments, Murray calmed my worries with his warmth, energy and lucidity. He was also matter of fact about his circumstances and excited to talk about a book that was likely to see its success after he was gone. We must have spoken for a half an hour without any sign from him of impatience or fatigue.

He saw his illness as something to be dealt without bitterness.

The journey

“I’m a brain-tumored guy, and you play the hand you’re dealt; you count your blessings and make the most of things,” he said in the interview. “I was the model of health and had a balanced life. I don’t drink or smoke. I did yoga and played tennis three or four times a week.”

Murray seemed most excited about the book because it might benefit readers who otherwise would not know of the basic steps someone can take to ensure they invest properly. (The book advocates that people hire a financial advisor.)

“The journey is what has been so rewarding,” he said of the process of writing it.

The book is scheduled for release by its new publisher on Jan. 25, and it’s expected to command premium shelf space at all major book retailers. It was originally self-published.

Murray said the way the final 24 months of his life unfolded made him feel grateful in the interview.

“I’ve had two years to have wonderful closure. Who could ask for more? I’m the luckiest person in the world.”

Murray is survived by his wife, Randi, and two sons, Ben and Sam, according to the Associated Press.

Murray’s publicist said that Murray requested that no memorial service or funeral be held for him, the AP reported. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the UCSF Foundation, the Cal Parents Fund or the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation.

Brooke’s Note: I am relatively sheltered from death in my work life. I have certainly never met someone, worked through an article with them and lost them all in a six-week span. I feel a sense of loss and humility. I also feel a sense of awe and affirmation. I’ve built my life around RIAs because I believe accountable advisors working in the right framework can make a real difference for people’s lives. It’s a giant affirmation to see someone like Gordon Murray who could have chosen a world tour to exotic places as a way to spend his final months. Yet he felt that helping see to it that people get the right financial advice from the right advisors was worthy of using his final energies on earth. We all have finite energies and time and it’s gift to have been told by Murray, who had the advantage of the clarity that comes from nearing death, that helping people with their financial health is worthy by that ultimate measure.

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Pat Sweeny said:

January 19, 2011 — 5:51 PM UTC

Liked and appreciated your note very much Brooke. I’ve been a part of the DFA community for over 16 years and Gordon Murray was a friend. One term sums up how he conducted himself, and not just at the end of his life: class act. R.I.P. Gordo.

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