An Interview with Beloved PU Faculty Dr. Beth Murphy
June 7, 2022
Part of the Phillips University Story Project
In 1958, Dr. Beth Murphy had just finished her Masters of Education at the University of Colorado. The head of the Biology Department, Professor Anderson, told her he had recommended her for a job.
Professor Alexander: "I recommended you for a job!"
Dr. Murphy: "Where?"
Professor Alexander: "Phillips University."
Dr. Murphy: "Where's that?"
Professor Alexander: "Enid, Oklahoma."
Dr. Murphy: "BUT WHERE'S THAT?
As so it began. Read on below for some reflections from beloved faculty Dr. Beth Murphy.
How did you come to be at Phillips University?
Dr. Murphy: I arrived in Enid, Oklahoma, to be interviewed by Dean Clifford Shirley. Dean Shirley showed me a picture of the faculty and told me I "might want to look at this." I immediately spotted Professor Ed Jordan, with whom I had attended school. Ed was also from Page, Nebraska, where his father was the Superintendent and Band Director.
One of my University of Colorado professors went to college with Phillips' President, Eugene S. Briggs. The Colorado professor told President Briggs I was the only person qualified to teach Freshman Biology and Chemistry.
So I began my career at Phillips University as a Freshman Biology and Chemistry professor. In my 3rd year at Phillips, Professor Kenneth Lewis told me he didn't like to teach Organic Chemistry, so I traded with him and taught Organic and Biologic Chemistry along with Freshman Biology.
What led you to the vocation of teaching?
When I finished my undergraduate degree at Nebraska Wesleyan, the head of the Chemistry Department was looking for someone to teach chemistry to student nurses. I liked teaching, so I went to get a teaching certificate. I taught high school for two years and then went on to get my Masters's degree and then a Ph.D.
When you look back, what made life on campus and a Phillips University education distinctive?
Phillips was a good school with good students. The quality of students in my classes was excellent. Most of my upper-level students were mainly pre-med. They needed organic chemistry. I also taught physiology for a while. The pre-med students went into medicine and were successful. Many of them won professional honors.
What was your favorite location on campus?
My favorite location was the Science Building. Our Lab was well equipped. The Administration was very supportive and allowed the professors in sciences to buy whatever they needed.
What is one guiding philosophy that shaped your time at Phillips?
My guiding philosophy was shaped by the responses of students. My students were the "cream of the crop." My general biology classes had 25-30 students. The upper division classes were even smaller.
What advice do you have for college students today?
Get an A in organic chemistry! You will automatically get into medical school or graduate school. Do everything you can for whatever career you want.
Finally, what does leadership look like to you?
Leadership is using your talents to get whatever needs done, done.
Dr. Murphy taught at Phillips from 1958 to 1997. When she retired, she gave all her lesson plans, lectures, etc. to the Science Department Secretary. When she came back as an adjunct, the secretary gave it back, so she walked into to classroom and was ready to go. Dr. Murphy deeply enjoyed playing intramurals with the faculty. The faculty team won the volleyball tournament one year, and gave the trophy to the second-place team. She enjoyed going to basketball games but often couldn't attend afternoon sports due to labs scheduled in the afternoons.
Today, Dr. Muphy lives at The Commons Retirement Living Center in Enid after donating her home in Enid to Habitat for Humanity in 2021. Many people she meets at the Commons share stories about how they or their children were in her classes at Phillips.
She is a member of Phillips University Legacy Foundation’s 1907 Society. The 1907 Society is comprised of individuals and couples who have left a planned gift or bequest to the foundation in their estate planning.