Walter Murray was born on May 12, 1866, in King's County, New Brunswick. He received his BA from the University of New Brunswick in 1866; later, as the Canadian Gilchrist scholar, he attended the University of Edinburgh, where he received his MA in philosophy in 1891. He then went on to teach philosophy at Dalhousie until he was appointed the first president of the University of Saskatchewan in 1908. He remained there until his retirement in 1937. Murray is remembered for his vision of a “people's university” dedicated to serving the agricultural needs of Saskatchewan, but also to benefiting from relationships to other disciplines. He insisted, therefore, that despite some criticism the College of Agriculture be integrated with the other colleges on campus rather than be separated, as was the norm elsewhere.
Murray also served in numerous other public offices: he was on the board of trustees for the Carnegie Foundation, was the chair of the board of governors for the Saskatoon Hospital, and was very active in his own church. He was the recipient of honorary degrees from universities all over Canada as well as the United States. His commitment to building the “people's university” as well as his community service, deep faith, and renowned generosity to those in need have given him the title of “Prairie Builder.”