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Thomas M. Murray Receives MBMA's Inaugural Ellifritt Award

Dr. Thomas Murray (right) accepts the Ellifritt Award from Dr. Lee Shoemaker.

Cleveland, OH - The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) presented Dr. Thomas Murray with the inaugural Dr. Duane S. Ellifritt Research Award. Named after MBMA’s original director of research and engineering, this honor will be given to a researcher annually for contributions to the advancement of metal building systems. Murray accepted the award at the 2023 MBMA Research Symposium in Atlanta.

“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Murray. “Duane and I were good friends for many years and to receive an award named after him is a special honor. I am grateful to the MBMA for selecting me to be the inaugural awardee.”

Murray is the Montague Betts Professor of Structural Steel Design-Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. He began participating in MBMA-sponsored research in 1981 when he was selected to study the behavior of roof systems under gravity loads. His work resulted in what became known as the Base Test. It was adopted into the 1996 American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) Specification and has been extended to address uplift loads. In 1982, he began work on bolted end-plate connections with the aim of unifying the design approach for the most common of these connections used in the industry. The culmination of this work was realized in 2002 with the publication of the AISC/MBMA Design Guide No. 16, now the recognized standard for bolted end-plate connection design.

“Dr. Murray’s work through the years has added significantly to the industry,” noted Lee Shoemaker, Ph.D., PE, MBMA’s current director of research and engineering. “A quick look through our library reveals 48 publications of MBMA-sponsored work in which he was one of the authors.”

The MBMA research award is named for Ellifritt, who was teaching at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1975 when he was appointed as the first director of research and engineering for the MBMA. He served in that role until 1985 when he returned to teaching as a professor of civil engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he taught until his retirement in 2010. Throughout his life, artistic expression was evidenced through his prolific works in various mediums. He always traveled with his sketch book and would transform his favorite drawings into intricate watercolors. His home and art studio were wall-to-wall with original vignettes of his observations of life, especially his interest in bridges and other structures. His most famous work, the Steel Structure, is a teaching sculpture that stands on the Gainesville campus and has been reproduced nearly 200 times at colleges and universities around the world. He passed away in 2018. The Ellifritt family was very honored that MBMA has chosen to recognize him in this way.

About The Metal Building Manufacturers Association

mbma-logoFounded in 1956, MBMA serves manufacturers and suppliers as it works to promote the metal building systems industry. Its membership supplies high-quality buildings for use in commercial, retail, office, industrial, institutional and other end-uses. The association provides a wealth of information on its website for anyone who works with or is interested in metal building systems. It includes technical materials and design guides. For more information, visit

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