August 4, 2014
Barbara E. Murphy announced she will retire from her position as president of Johnson State College on June 30, 2015. President Murphy will retire after a 32-year career in Vermont higher education, having served as Johnson’s president for the past 14 years.
“Serving the JSC community has been an honor and a wonderful experience,” said President Murphy. “Over the past 14 years I have witnessed many great accomplishments by a committed, daring and engaged faculty and staff. I have seen our students succeed on campus and out in the world after graduation. And I have watched as the communities and towns around us have embraced and supported the college in its work. As I reflect on all of this, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of it, and I look forward to seeing the amazing work that will take place at JSC in future years.”
Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Timothy Donovan noted that President Murphy’s retirement, while well-deserved, will be a loss both to JSC and the state college system as a whole.
“It’s with regret that I’ve acknowledged President Murphy’s plan to retire next year,” Donovan said. “I can say in all honesty that very few people have the ability to constantly connect with students and inspire them to succeed while also devoting boundless energy and vision to an institution. Barbara did all of this and more. We at the Chancellor’s office are thankful for her service.
On a personal note, Donovan added that he and President Murphy have worked closely in many roles for more than three decades. “We grew up together professionally. I will miss the gift of that relationship,” he said.
Murphy took over the leadership of Johnson State College in 2001 after serving as the president of the Community College of Vermont from 1994 to 2001. During her tenure, JSC has experienced numerous successes, including an increase in the number of degrees awarded and a 70 percent increase in enrollment in the college’s bachelor’s-degree-completion program. JSC’s commitment to faculty and student research in the sciences resulted in JSC being named as an early partner of Vermont Genetics Network through the University of Vermont.
President Murphy has been a forceful advocate for academic excellence throughout her tenure. She has overseen high-quality faculty and staff recruitment efforts and the creation of new academic programs as diverse as musical theatre and health and sport psychology. She also guided the college in its efforts to improve first-year student retention and success. This work was launched when JSC was awarded a competitive Title III grant that led to the creation of JSC’s Office of the First-Year Experience.
JSC also established the President’s Fund for Excellence at the direction of President Murphy. This endowment has awarded close to $300,000 to students, faculty and staff to enrich education beyond the classroom.
In terms of capital project, President Murphy’s tenure has been marked by the expansion and renovation of key JSC facilities serving students, including the Bentley Hall science building, the Visual Arts Center, the Stearns Student Center, and Dewey Hall. She oversaw the addition of upgraded athletics programs and the College’s move to the NCAA Division III North Atlantic Conference.
“For nearly a decade and a half Johnson State College has had the good fortune to have been guided by President Murphy,” said Martha O’Connor, chair of the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees. “The college’s achievements during her tenure are remarkable, and the positive effect Barbara has had at JSC will be felt for generations.”
President Murphy is a former or current board member and officer of many organizations, including Vermont CARES, an AIDS education and service program; the Vermont Alliance for Nonprofit Organizations (VANPO); River Arts in Morrisville; the Lamoille Hunger Council; the Lamoille County Planning Commission; and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). She served as a member of the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection and is a member of the University of Vermont’s Continuing Education advisory council.
She was recently named by Vermont Works for Women as one of its 28 “Labor of Love” honorees and was part of the leadership group of the Task Force on Young Women in the Vermont Economy. Other recognition includes the Jackie Gribbons Award for Leadership from Vermont Women in Higher Education and a fellowship from the Vermont Arts Council.
Murphy is a published poet, and a collection of her poems, Almost Too Much, will be published by Cervena Barva this fall.
On Monday, August 4, 2014, President Murphy sent the following note to JSC Faculty and Staff:
Dear Johnson State College Colleagues,
August, while still high summer, marks the start of the academic year. In this spirit of renewal, change, and beginning, I want to let you know that I have decided that this coming academic year will be my final year as JSC president. I have announced to the Chancellor my intent to retire in June, 2015, and I shared the news at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting.
At the end of the coming year, I will have had the great privilege of serving as president at JSC for 14 years. We will conclude our five-year college plan— JSC 2010-2015: A Plan for Access, Engagement, & Success —in the coming year, and that marker, along with our upcoming ten-year reaccreditation, seems a good point at which to begin a transition.
To know and work with Johnson State College’s students, faculty, and staff is blessed work, and I know how lucky I am. I have been in the company of people —you— who make discoveries, open and share labs, studios and classrooms. Our staff members believe fiercely in our students and provide supports while holding standards high. Attaining that balance is careful, essential and exacting work.
In addition to the central role of teaching, our faculty members create new work, show and publish it, credit students with their own creativity and accomplishments, and make pathways for students to begin their own professional adult lives.
As a winner of a significant federal grant several years ago, JSC was given a chance to reinvent our students’ first year with us. Through perseverance, imagination, and tenacity, we created a program that changed our culture and continues to grow and deepen each year through a common reading to faculty-designed seminars to mentoring and learning communities. We have so much to be proud of.
Our pride extends beyond our campus. We have students in every county in Vermont pursuing their degrees through our community-based EDP program. We are reminded every day that the education and programs we offer reach far and beyond what we see in our daily work. Our graduate students, too, prepare to deepen their careers in the arts, counseling, and education—fields that define the essential work of our state.
We have done much to improve an already beautiful and well cared-for campus, expanding and upgrading most of our academic and student-centered buildings. Our facilities staff have risen to the challenge of maintaining these building and grounds, efforts that are noticed at every open house and new student event, and never taken for granted.
Friends and donors believe in us and inspire us, reminding us that a college is very much of a part of a community. Our library and learning center, our alumni clock tower, and the dozens of named scholarships we award each year are evidence of the reach of our work and the commitments we must keep.
These are not easy times in public higher education. We have competing urgencies for funding, understandable anxieties about costs, and skepticism —even in the face of the evidence— about the value of college. But, our mission statement asserts that “we believe in the power of higher education to change lives.” This is our work, and this belief will trump the hard times.
And so, we begin another academic year –welcoming hundreds of new students to campus—in less than four weeks. I am so excited to begin this coming year with you and so proud to know you as colleagues and friends.
I believe that a transition in leadership is an occasion for a college and its members to come together with optimism and a renewed sense of its future, and I look forward to all that will come. I will champion Johnson State College always.
Pictured above: Barbara E. Murphy (right) poses with a 2014 Commencement Speaker, Veronika Scott, who received an honorary doctorate from JSC.