History Spans Century
When freshmen moved in at Southwestern College on
Aug. 22, they came in cars and trucks, U-Hauls and pick-ups pulling
horse trailers. But all of these conveyances had something in common:
When the farewell worship service was over and the last hugs had
been exchanged, parents got back in their vehicles and left for
When the Murray family headed to Southwestern College
more than three-quarters of a century ago, things were different.
Then the six Murray children and their mother packed up and moved
to Winfield from Hutchinson, simply because Southwestern College
And since the early part of the 20th century, the
Murray family has been a thread running through the Southwestern
story. Ten family members (including in-laws) have attended here.
One of the six siblings, Alvin, was president of the college from
October 17, 1949, to June 30, 1953—a critical period when
Richardson Hall burned and the Methodist church was on the brink
of closing the college. Alvin Murray is given much of the credit
for convincing delegates to the Central Kansas Conference not to
merge Southwestern with Kansas Wesleyan in Salina.
The youngest of the six siblings, Ralph Murray,
was born in 1908. Largely raised by his older siblings after his
mother died, Ralph attended Southwestern for one year but the scholar’s
life wasn’t for a young fellow who describes himself at the
time as footloose and fancy-free.
After a few years in Chicago, Ralph hitchhiked
to New York in 1928.
“I was young, and things didn’t bother
me,” Ralph says today. “If I had two nickels, I was
in good shape—I could rub one against the other.”
Thanks to the intervention of a friend he had known
in Winfield, Murray was hired by the Associated Press as a copyboy.
He rose through the ranks to become an editor, and ended up staying
at the Associated Press for his entire career, retiring because
of failing eyesight two weeks before Kennedy’s assassination.
It was in New York that he first met Dorothy Splicher,
a fellow New York emigrant. (Dorothy uses E.B.White’s description
of the three types of New Yorkers in her series of short stories
“New York: The Way It Was,”--the native, the commuter,
and the emigrant.)
Dorothy, who left a career as a schoolteacher in
Pennsylvania to attend library school in New York, eventually became
director of her own developmental reading program. The two emigrants
discovered a lasting and deep love for New York City, living there
until they retired to Gettysburg.
At 95, Ralph continues to be active. “He
runs the household,” Dorothy says, crediting her husband with
taking care of finances, cooking, entertaining and shopping, as
well as woodworking (making much of their furniture) and photography.
He raises tomatoes, and walks a mile every day the weather is good.
Now the Murrays live in a retirement community in
Still, in spite of geographical distance, they’ve
never been far from Murray’s Southwestern roots. During the
years brother Alvin was president of the college, he often stayed
with them while traveling through the east. Now Ralph and Dorothy
remained connected to SC through their other family members
to alumni and friends the Builders of Excellence campaign
continues to move forward. Announced at Homecoming 2002, the
capital campaign has raised more than $13 million in cash
and pledges toward its goal of $24 million. Volunteers and
staff are active in the Wichita area and will be moving to
Kansas City durinig the winter. The spring 2004 emphasis will
be western Kansas.
emphasis of the Builders of Excellence campaign is being announced
in this Southwesterner. Donations are being sought for the
renovation of the 77 steps. See details on the Special Features
information or updates on the Builders of Excellence campaign,
contact Paul Bean, vice president for institutional advancement,
at (620) 229-6286, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
And they’ve remained connected through their
support of the Builders of Excellence campaign now in place.
“I’ve gotten on the bandwagon,”
says Ralph Murray. “There’s an awful lot of places you
can give money to that it won’t do much good. I read or hear
about how the CEOs of the organizations live it up and draw a million
dollar salaries, and it’s sort of discouraging. I don’t
think that happens at Southwestern.”