IMPACT Stories

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Sharing the stories of Saint Xavier University students, alumni, faculty/staff and friends.

Dr. Steven J. Murphy: Four Decades of Passion for Saint Xavier University

Steve Murphy

On Dr. Steven J. Murphy’s first day at Saint Xavier University, he was told, “Bring your wife, Barbara.  Wear old clothes.  We are cleaning the lake.”

Thus began a career that has spanned nearly four decades.  Dr. Murphy has filled many roles on campus.  He started as the first lay Director of Campus Ministry in 1975 and went on to provide leadership for the areas of student affairs, athletics and enrollment as the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services, and later, alumni relations, development and grants as the Vice President of University Advancement. 

“I’ve been blessed to be involved in a lot of things at Saint Xavier -- from facility renovations and construction to developing programs meant to engage our students in the life of the University.  I remember the period in Enrollment and Student Services when Saint Xavier University was among the fastest growing colleges in the Midwest.  We were growing in academic quality, ethnic diversity, and geographical diversity.  I fondly recall the construction of the Shannon Center and McDonough Chapel, the residence halls, and, more recently, the Library transformation project.  It’s been wonderful to be a part of so many wonderful success stories.”

Dr. Murphy has a strong conviction for Saint Xavier University and the work done with first-generation college students.  His passion for our mission starts with his mom and dad.  His father was a horse and wagon milkman who left school in the tenth grade and went to work when his father died; his mom was proud of her high school diploma but never dreamed of going to college. 

“When I got to this campus, I discovered I had a strong connection to the students.  I knew that my calling was to work with first-generation college students.  In them, I saw that what my parents wanted for me -- a college education -- was what their parents and families wanted for them.  Everything is possible with education.”

“That’s what is special about SXU:  the mission.  For the Sisters of Mercy to have the vision in 1846 to get a charter that would allow them to grant bachelor’s degrees to women who were really without other options is incredible.  To reach out to the people who didn’t automatically have access to higher education and to afford them that kind of opportunity decades before anyone else was doing it is remarkable.  And today, that same mission carries on in new forms with new populations.  But, what’s the same is that if we weren’t here, our students -- who represent the demographic of the 21st Century -- would not have access to higher education.”

After a long and distinguished career, Dr. Murphy retired from Saint Xavier University last month.  He will continue to contribute to the Saint Xavier community as he plans to assist in efforts to secure the University’s future through planned gifts.

Dr. Murphy’s impact can be felt far and wide on campus.  He started a number of retention programs 30 years ago that are still assisting students today -- the Learning Center, which offers a variety of academic support services; the Student Success Program, a federally funded TRIO program that serves students who are first-generation, low-income and/or have disabilities; and the Transitions first-year seminar.  Additionally, he started the football program, the men’s and women’s soccer teams, cross country, and women’s basketball program.  Dr. Murphy hired Jonathan Brandmeier’s brother, Jimmy, to be the Director of Student Activities.  Together they went to Beverly Records, bought two vinyl L.P. records of college fight songs, and Dr. Murphy asked Jimmy to write “We Are Saint Xavier.”  He opened Pacelli Hall to students after years of the space being used as a halfway house.  Dr. Murphy even once hired a helicopter to photograph the campus for the Admission viewbook and hosted a talent show won by Athletic Director and women’s basketball coach Bob Hallberg on roller skates!

Reflecting on his career, Dr. Murphy takes “great pride in knowing that my staff and I always kept the focus on student learning through every new program and every new space.  Students go to college to learn, and it is a documented fact that much of what they learn is outside the classroom.  We very consciously created learning centered programs.  Students learn about themselves through Counseling, Career Services, and student leadership experiences.  Students expand their world through internships, Campus Ministry and residence hall living.  Students learn to be healthy at the Shannon Center.  All of our coaches emphasize winning, but our student-athlete GPA and graduation rates are exceptional.  And the spaces we created or improved all support student learning.  Of course, the millions of dollars people have generously given to student scholarships directly support student learning.  This is what I am most proud of.”

Few people have an opportunity to impact as many people as Dr. Steve Murphy has during his tenure at Saint Xavier University -- upwards of 32,000 alumni over the last 39 years.  He has worked tirelessly to support students in their educational aspirations and has significantly molded the Saint Xavier University we know today. 

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