JSC President Emerita Barbara Murphy receives NEBHE award for lifetime achievement


Tom Benton

President Barbara Murphy

Johnson State President Emerita Barbara Murphy has received the New England Board of Higher Education’s 2016 Eleanor M. McMahon Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The recently-retired former president said that the award is a generous acknowledgment of her career, but that she didn’t do it alone. “Every year for the fourteen graduations I presided over, I’d say to new graduates that no one gets to this platform alone. It is equally true of a working life,” she said. “No one gets to a place of recognition without the essential service and contributions of others. This is not false humility; I learned a long time ago that in leadership it is the work of colleagues — new and seasoned — that will determine success.”

Murphy served as president of the college for 14 years before retiring in the summer of 2015. Prior to that she had been president of the Community College of Vermont for six years.

Reflecting on her time at the helm of the college, Murphy said she is proud of the progress made during her tenure. “We made progress on many fronts at JSC in the last fourteen years,” she said. “I am pleased that our facilities — Bentley for the sciences, the Visual Arts Center, our Student Center, Athletics, Dewey — are all upgraded. At every turn, we aimed to make our space more student-centered, places in which students could learn and grow individually and in community.

“I’m proud that our college became a more diverse entity,” she continued. “We welcomed more students of color and gained in cultural competence serving students who identify as LGBTQ individuals. Johnson has seen wonderful additions of new staff and faculty to join our experienced personnel. And the energy that has come from new research, creative activities, and new teaching approaches has caught fire and spread.”

Specifically, she pointed to the Early College Program at JSC as an example of an area where the college is excelling. “The inclusion of the Early College Program at JSC is further evidence that the College is providing a valued role in the lives of young students, their families, Vermont’s communities. A handful of Vermont colleges signed on to offer Early College programs, but JSC became quickly expert in this role, and will, I expect, continue to flourish in offering a high-quality alternative senior high school year to VT teens.”
Murphy is still adjusting to retirement. Now that she’s a full-time Burlington resident, she’s taking advantage of the bike path, the thriving art scene, and city politics. A published poet, she’s diving back into writing and intends to make that a major focus of her next life phase.

Still, retirement is slightly bittersweet for her as well. “While I have no regrets about my decision to step down,” she said, “I miss the dynamic life of JSC, my colleagues, the students. But that’s as it should be; not to miss a place and role one loved to inhabit would be a loss in itself. I follow with interest the website and believe the college is in very good hands and on a continuing path to excellence.”

The award will be presented at the New England Higher Education Excellence Awards ceremony at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel on March 4, 2016.