Everyday Hero: Nancy Murphy

Posted: December 2, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

Nancy Murphy

Name: Nancy Murphy

Title: Administrative assistant to the vice president for university life

Years at Mason: 17

Work at Mason: Murphy started as a part-timer in Career Services, then worked for the director of development before moving on to Student/University Life, where she’s been since 1989.

What a Typical Day Looks Like for Her: “There isn’t one!” says Murphy. That variety is part of what she loves about her job. “It could start with a phone call from a mother concerned that her daughter is bulimic, or a call from a student who wants to bring another student up on honor charges, or someone asking what we can do about gum chewers on campus, or a townsperson complaining about ‘supposed’ Greek parties keeping them up until 2 a.m. There could be five messages like that on the phone when I walk in every day.”

On Dream Bosses: Murphy says she feels extremely fortunate to have worked for some terrific people, including Ken Bumgarner, associate vice president of university services; Karen Rosenblum, the first vice president for university life; and now Sandy Hubler, Rosenblum’s successor.

On Knowing Her Way Around: “People send all kinds of calls to me. They think, ‘Nancy Murphy will know that—she’s been here forever!’ It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time. A curse because the phones never stop ringing; a blessing because I enjoy connecting with so many people.”

Why Her Job Is So Important: When President Alan Merten arrived seven years ago, one of his goals was for Mason students, staff, and faculty to develop a better sense of community at the university. “Students and staff spend a lot of time here,” she says, “and in the process, I hope they have a lot of fun with as few frustrations as possible. One of University Life’s goals is to improve the quality of work life here at Mason.”

Nancy Murphy on scooter
Murphy tries out a

scooter at a Mason

Photos by Evan Cantwell

Her Extracurricular Activities: Murphy has been a member of a lunch group, a walking group, a bowling group, and a golf group—all with folks on campus. She also runs a monthly nonfiction book club, where she can claim perfect attendance for the last 10 years. “I’m very fortunate that my work group is also my social group.”

Her Proud Moments At Mason: Murphy organized a December holiday potluck 15 years ago for the staff in University Life that remains a tradition today. She takes pride in the quality of the student representatives who serve on the Board of Visitors because one of her responsibilities is to organize the selection process. And Murphy always enjoys working at the information center on graduation day. “Watching the processional while listening to ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ always brings a lump to my throat.” Recently the Teddy Bear class from Mason’s Child Development Center came to Mason Hall to trick-or-treat. Murphy says she is pleased to have been instrumental in this five-year tradition.

The Hardest Part of the Job: Keeping track of all the activities and events at Mason. She prints out the “Mason Today” section from the web site as a guide, and is amazed at how many things are going on. “Activities used to be just a small list in Broadside. Now it can be as long as 26 pages!”

On Her Mason Spirit: Murphy has two sons, one of whom graduated from Mason and married another Mason graduate. They have a son named Mason. “He gets a lot of Mason stuff from his Nana!” says Murphy.

What You Might Not Know about Her: Murphy met her husband in Cu Chi, Vietnam, where she was a Red Cross recreation worker in an evacuation medical hospital. Her husband-to-be was a second lieutenant in the Army. “He winked at me, I winked at him, and 38 years later, here we are!” She says that courting in Vietnam was very difficult; it was hard to find time to be together. They would meet back-to-back on a dry duct drainage board to share their favorite drink called a Cherry Herring (“taste akin to cough syrup, only worse”). One day, he passed her the cup, and there was an engagement ring inside. “Some of the Red Cross girls cut the board and had it engraved with the date we were engaged. They gave it to us as a wedding gift.”

On Personal Fulfillment: “I appreciate the fact that I grew up with my young children. I’m very happy that I didn’t start working full-time until I was 40—when I started here. I maintain a lot of enthusiasm for my job because, contrary to others, I’ve only been in the workforce for a short time. I’ve had the best of both worlds.”

What People Say about Her:

“Nancy is the kind of person who illuminates a room—everybody feels better when Nancy is around. She brings out the best in all of us. She cares so deeply for students and for all of us at Mason—you can see that in everything she does.”

—Sandy Hubler, Vice President for University Life

“Nancy always has an interesting topic at hand in case there’s a lull in the conversation. It can be anything from current events to politics to fantasy. She has one of the most positive outlooks of anyone I know; she can either find something positive to say, or find a smooth way to move past an awkward moment. Anyone who counts Nancy Murphy as a friend is a lucky person, as she is very caring and considerate of her friends. She is a valuable friend to me.”

—Sukey O’Donnell, Director of Budget and Personnel, Admissions

“NANCY MURPHY, a name that should only be spelled in capital letters. Where do I begin? Nancy has the power and attitude to tackle any task and make your day go from bad to good in the blink of an eye. University Life and Mason would not run as smoothly without her. It is a true pleasure to work with Nancy.”

—Alissa Karton, Johnson Center and University Life Program Director

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