Karen Murray, Michael Murray, and Dr. Duke Cameron
by Karen Alberg Grossman
Karen Murray, Michael Murray, and Dr. Duke Cameron
(L-R) Karen Murray, Michael Murray, and Dr. Duke Cameron

There were plenty of joyful tears at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan when industry icon Karen Murray’s son Michael presented his mom with the special Inspiration of Excellence award at the Marfan Foundation’s annual fundraising gala on Wednesday evening. Speaking without notes (“I decided to wing it!”), Michael first expressed tremendous gratitude to his surgeon, Dr. Duke Cameron, who had repaired his aorta, and then spoke from the heart about his mom. “Every year I take a photo of her on stage and with each year that passes, I appreciate her more and more. She keeps amazing me by all she does, and by how much love she puts into everything she touches.”

Gracious as always, Karen Murray, who was recently appointed as the CEO of Sequential Brands, called Michael the “light in my life.” She then went on to thank Dr. Cameron: “I gave birth to Michael but you gave him life.”  During her speech, she reminisced about the first Marfan fundraiser that she organized 20 years ago in the Liz Claiborne showroom where she then worked. “It was market week so we were able to steal snacks from various showrooms in the building to serve at the event. There were hundreds of buyers in town back then and I think we charged $10 a person and somehow raised about $20,000 which made me so proud. Twenty years later, we have 700 people here and we raise about a million dollars annually.”

Describing the impact of the Marfan Foundation on her life, Murray spoke of how the organization has consistently helped her as a parent dealing with the ups and downs of this difficult disease. “Clearly the real heroes are the people living with Marfans and related disorders: I have tremendous respect for all of you.”

Karen Murray Marfan FoundationKaren Murray Marfan FoundationKaren Murray Marfan Foundation
This year’s two Hero with a Heart honorees were Dr. Joseph Coselli, who noted that you can’t be a good surgeon unless you’re first a good human being, and Sinclair Li, a lovely young father of two who survived several heart surgeries (and who joked that his claim to fame was winning two fantasy football championships). On a more serious note, he described the pain of losing his father to an aortic dissection when his dad was 51 and he was only 34, and his constant worry about his two young sons who both carry the gene for Marfans. “My family is from Taiwan and in our culture, success in life is being able to care for your parents. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do that for my dad and I pray my boys will be able to do that for my wife and me. Our greatest hope for the future is genetic testing.”

Other highlights of a wonderful evening included a live auction, a silent auction and a musical performance by Broadway and recording star Stephanie Mills. For more information on The Marfan Foundation or to make a donation, check out