An afternoon of gratitude


Deb Bouton

Barbara Murphy and her grandson, Tate

A celebration of the leadership of Barbara E. Murphy was held on April 28, 2015 as a forum to say thank you and goodbye to the retiring Johnson State president of 14 years.

To kick off the event, local band Up on the Roof played a few songs before the JSC Chamber singers, conducted by Assistant Professor of the Performing Arts Bethany Plissey, sang the JSC Alma Mater followed by a few other musical renditions.

Following the performances, a series of staff, faculty and colleagues stood up to voice their appreciation for Murphy’s leadership, and to recount some of their memories.

“There’s sort of a sadness when I think about Barbara leaving the VSC system…I would like to share a story of the Barbara you know and I know, and that we love,” said President of Community College of Vermont Joyce Judy. “So, as many of you know, Barbara is an impeccable dresser, and I had the privilege of driving her around the state when she was applying to be the president of several public colleges. So, Barbara showed up on the morning of the interviews in this lovely beige suit, and I must say that within 5 minutes of being in the car with her, she had coffee all down the front of that suit, but you know this was a good lesson for me. Barbara, who is unflappable in crisis, spent the rest of the day putting people at ease in her interviews by talking and admitting about the stain…I will miss my mentor dearly.”
Stories like this, among so many others, painted a picture of the type of leader Murphy has been, and the person she will continue to be. Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw described Murphy as a deeply dedicated leader both in her time at CCV and JSC with an unwavering commitment to higher education.

“This, for her, is more than a professional obligation,” said Shaw. “It has been clearly a calling to which she has remained faithful. Also obvious is the singular grace with which she has served us for so long. Just weeks into her first year as president of JSC, she brought the community together on 9/11, offering a forum for needed clarification, discourse, and mutual support. With great sensitivity a few years later, she met the challenge of a students’ suicide head-on, providing a way for the college community to coalesce in grief and healing. And then of course there are the many private acts of kindness and compassion she has extended to this community, to staff, to faculty, to students. I am included among those…we have been well-served, and we continue to be well-served.”

A number of other people spoke at Murphy’s retirement celebration including Director of First-Year Experience Margo Warden, Dean of Academic Affairs Daniel Regan, Professor of Behavioral Sciences Gina Mireault, Professor of Fine Arts Ken Leslie, Professor of Writing and Literature Liz Powell, Johnson Selectboard Chair Eric Osgood, Retired President and CEO of VSAC Don Vickers, Vermont State College Student Trustee Alyssa Slaimen, VSC Board Chair Martha O’Connor, and Castleton College President David Wolk.

“I just want you to know that I knew Johnson the way it was,” said Wolk, “and I now know Johnson the way it is. What a transformation that has taken place…I have seen the change in, not just the physical structure, but also the change in the climate and culture of this place. It grabs my heart when I’m here. Every time I’m here, I am so impressed by this culture you have created, and your colleagues, of course, have been a big part of that. You’re all here together in a big family. This culture of civility and respect is not always something you encounter at college campuses. When you walk onto a campus you feel a sense of the place, and what I feel at Johnson is a sense of stability, of respect, of students opening doors for you and picking up litter on the ground, and doing the right thing even when no one else is looking. That doesn’t just happen. You build that, and that is a legacy you have created, Barbara, with everyone here.”
All who spoke thanked Murphy for her many years of service to the college, and showed their appreciation for the way she chose to lead the college. After everyone had a chance to speak, a video tribute created by Marketing Design and Product Manager Eric Kirk broadcasted a special thank you entitled “Dear Barbara,” from students, staff and faculty wouldn’t be able to speak at the event in person.

At the conclusion of the event, the guest of honor, Barbara Murphy, stood up to say a few words.

“I thank you for a program that was rich and full, and it’s hard to believe I managed to get through it with the company of you all,” said Murphy. “I imagined today that I would have a few minutes to speak, and all I could imagine saying is thank you, so that’s about all I’m going to do. As a college president I have spent much time asking for information, for funding, for something to be fixed or made better, for understanding, and it is a simple pleasure to have only gratitude as my assignment today.”
For those who would like to view the “Dear Barbara” video, it can be found at