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Murray/SC 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 home.

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 was here.

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 Carlisle, Penn.

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

Thanks 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.

A special 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 page.

For more information or updates on the Builders of Excellence campaign, contact Paul Bean, vice president for institutional advancement, at (620) 229-6286, or e-mail pbean@sckans.edu

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.”