Palm Beach Atlantic University will honor Palm Beach residents Susie Elson and Nancy Murray as Women of Distinction 2014 at a luncheon Wednesday, February 19 at The Breakers, Palm Beach. A pre-luncheon reception begins at 11:15 a.m.; the luncheon follows at noon.
Susie Elson is known as a champion for community service. For nearly 50 years, Elson has been a volunteer leader supporting causes ranging from social services to education and the arts. Her longstanding interest in mental health issues on the local and state levels culminated in her serving as president of the National Mental Health Association, which has more than 1 million members. She served as chair of the American Craft Council and is an honorary trustee of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. She was a trustee of the American Federation of Arts, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and was the co-chairman of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston Salem. She is a member of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
For many years, Elson was deeply involved in higher education, serving as a trustee of Fisk University, Randolph Macon Women’s College, the Emory University Board of Visitors and the board of governors of Eugene Lang College, New School in New York. In 1992, she was appointed by the Governor of Georgia to the state board of regents, the governing body of Georgia’s state university system comprised of 34 universities with more than 200,000 students.
In Atlanta where Elson lived for 40 years, she was a trustee of the High Museum, a board member for the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Foundation, a trustee of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and a board member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
She currently serves on the advisory board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. In Palm Beach, she is a trustee of the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and a trustee of The Society of the Four Arts, where she chairs the art acquisition committee. In 2010, she chaired the Society’s bi-annual fundraising gala.
Elson has received numerous honors and awards, including the YWCA Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers award, the alumnae achievement award from Randolph Macon Women’s College and the Channel 11 Community Service Award. She was honored as a visionary of the Museum of Arts and Design. An experienced business leader, she served as vice president of marketing for Elson’s, which was America’s largest retail gift shop chain serving the traveling public. She is listed in Who’s Who in American Women and Who’s Who in America. She is the mother of three grown sons and is married to Edward Elson.
A Palm Beach resident for more than 45 years, Nancy Murray has contributed to the beauty and philanthropy of the community.
Murray is a Pennsylvania native who grew up in Bala Cynwyd. An English major, she graduated cum laude from Rosemont College and later when on to complete an MBA from Barry University. Professionally, she was an associate editor of The Saturday Evening Post and the assistant managing editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal.
Her professional life was a catalyst for her volunteer endeavors. She served as president and treasurer of the Junior League of the Palm Beaches and was the editor/writer of Palm Beach Entertains, a Junior League cookbook that first published nationally in 1976 and has been reprinted as recently as 2011.
Murray has held many volunteer roles in The Garden Club of Palm Beach including chairman of civic affairs, treasurer and president. She was an editor and contributing writer to Gardens by the Sea, published in 1999 by The Garden Club of Palm Beach. A Master Gardener, she was president and a founding member of the Horticulture Society of South Florida, which produced The Palm Beach Tropical Flower Show in West Palm Beach.
In addition, she has a volunteer role with The Garden Club of America, a national organization representing 200 garden clubs across the country. Murray serves as a vice president on the executive committee after tenure as assistant treasurer and director of Zone VIII (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama). In 2008, she was awarded the Zone VIII Creative Leadership Award. For this year’s centennial celebration of the Garden Club of America, she was book chairman of The Garden Club of America: 100 Years of a Growing Legacy.
A self-described “builder’s daughter,” she has always had a love of architecture. She was appointed as a commissioner on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission from 2001 to 2007 and recently served as a member of the Royal Poinciana Way Committee. She has been a director of the Palm Beach Civic Association since 2000 and served on its executive committee.
Murray was the first woman president of a club that is recognized as one of the 10 most important historical landmarks in the Town of Palm Beach. During her presidency, the club underwent a major, life-saving restoration for which it received the Ballinger Award from the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach for “restoration that best exemplifies the traditions of original houses and the architects who designed them.”
Murray and her physician husband, John, who is an ear, nose and throat specialist, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have two daughters, Nancy Lynn Murray McFadden of Denver, Colo., and Heather Murray of Los Angeles, Calif. Their son, JB Murray, is a lawyer in West Palm Beach. The Murrays have five grandchildren – two of whom live in Palm Beach.