Donna Murphy ’57
Donna Marie Murphy was a shy, book-loving teenager from Westfield, New Jersey, when she came to the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the fall of 1953. A would-be writer, she decided to major in English, although her practical father insisted she minor in Commerce—now Business. She had never wanted to be a teacher, but during her sophomore year she avidly listened as an assembly speaker spoke to the students about the field teaching. “Something clicked,” she says. “I went right down to the registrar and changed my minor to education.”
She is now in her 45th year as an educator. Since 1992 she has taught at Francis Xavier Warde School, a progressive Catholic elementary school in Chicago, where she now lives. She retired from classroom teaching and is now a tutor in the resource room that she established there. “I have a masters in reading and learning disabilities, so they put me to work with children who have difficulties in math or reading.” She still works three days a week and is part of the resource team of six. “This is my 23rd year at FXW and I love it! Our philosophy is to replicate the diversity of the Chicago population—culturally, religiously, and socio-economically. I truly began to appreciate broad-spectrum diversity at this job. It’s the real world, and a spark of God is in everyone!” she says.
About a dozen years ago, when drafting her will, Donna knew she wanted to remember the Mount. “I can still recall the anxiety of the first days, and the tears at graduation. It was an important part of my life, and I’d like others to have the same opportunities.” She has high praise for President Charles L. Flynn, Jr., whose competence and passion make her feel assured that her investment in the College’s future will reap great benefits. “I’m really impressed by the wonderful travel opportunities and internships open to Mount students. Under Dr. Flynn’s leadership, the Mount has built a community of students and faculty that reflects true diversity. I continue to be a donor because of that diversity in population and programs. It was not that way when I was a student, because we knew no other way. We were all young Catholic schoolgirls, but that’s not the world. We’re all in this together.”
Asked to name a few choice memories, she is quick to reply. “I will always remember my wonderful classmates, and our silly pranks. There was a statue of Louise de Marillac that would disappear now and then, only to be discovered under the covers in someone’s bed.” She also remembers being pushed to expand her horizons. “I was asked to take on certain challenges that I never would have done of my own volition, like chairing the Junior-Senior Luncheon and becoming editor of the yearbook. These challenges were so beneficial to me and improved my confidence and ability.”
Asked to reveal her hopes for future generations of Mount students, Donna answers thoughtfully. “The motto of the College was, and still is, ‘Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge.’ I hope future generations will take this to heart. Keeping an open mind is a lifelong journey. It’s not complete when you leave.”
As editor in chief of the 1957 yearbook, The Parapet, it was Donna Murphy’s task to include a parting message to the graduates. She asked her dear friend and fellow yearbook literary editor, Kathleen Barry, to pen some words for Mount graduates to live by. Kathleen obliged with the following:
“We have tried to unlock as many doors as possible. We have been guided, directed, stimulated toward our destination… The skills, the knowledge, the experience we have acquired must last… We have the keys to a truly complete life. We hold them firmly. The doors to the future are before us. Our prayer is that we turn the keys.”