If you’ve been around Berks County for any period of time, chances are you’ve run into Kevin Murphy. As the president of the Community Foundation since we first opened in July 1994, Kevin has met hundreds of local business and civic leaders in his quest to improve the quality of life here.  

That’s probably why nearly every gathering I attend includes the following interchange:


   “Hi, I’m Heidi Williamson from the Community Foundation.” – Me

   “Oh, I know Kevin.” – Other person   


And that’s not just a local occurrence, either. As board chair of the national Council on Foundations, Kevin is known throughout the global philanthropic community as someone who is constantly listening for best practices and good ideas that he can bring back to Berks County.


He’s also known locally and nationally for standing up for important issues and causes. Last year, for instance, he testified in Washington DC before the House Ways & Means Committee in defense of the charitable tax deduction. He didn’t use the national stage to promote the Community Foundation, but rather to promote and stand up for children in Berks County who are helped every day by local nonprofits that would struggle to survive without the donations they receive from people who are motivated to give larger amounts in part because they can deduct those donations from their taxes. You can watch about five minutes of his testimony here.


For the past 20 years, Kevin has convened groups to work on all manner of issues impacting our community, from farmland preservation to healthcare to education to economic development. He brings in speakers to help us get smarter about topics that impact us – like Bill McDonough who made the case for thinking differently about buildings and recycling, or Richard Florida, who helped us understand the role of the creative class in thriving communities. Sometimes, he just gets like-minded people together because he knows they care about similar things and can be more effective together than alone.


For Kevin, it’s all about Berks County. It’s all about providing opportunities for the kids who are growing up here. And he’s not afraid to occasionally ruffle some feathers to make a point.


For those reasons and many others, the staff members at the Community Foundation – the seven of us who work with Kevin day in and day out – were thrilled to learn that he was to be honored by BCTV with the 2014 Shirk Award.  


According to BCTV, the award is presented annually to a person who best embodies the spirit of Gene Shirk and his qualities: civility, humor, leadership, commitment to the well-being of others and involvement in the community.


Kevin joins a distinguished list of past Shirk Award recipients, people whose names are synonymous with making Berks County a better place:


  • William Flippin
  • Karen Rightmire
  • State Sen. Judy Schwank
  • S. Henry Lessig (deceased)
  • Chip Karasin
  • Rick Burkey
  • Carl Herbein
  • Barbara Kline
  • Jay Sidhu
  • Paul Roedel
  • Sam McCullough
  • Mary Ann Chelius Smith
  • John Weidenhammer
  • Chris G. Kraras 

Not surprisingly, Kevin knows (or knew) all of these people. And they all know him. He is, after all, one of the great connectors of our community.


If you know Kevin – and I’m sure you do – consider joining BCTV and the rest of us as we honor him on April 23 at the Stirling Guest Hotel. Tickets and details are available through BCTV.


See you there.


Heidi Williamson

Vice President for Grantmaking and Communication