Helen Elizabeth (Betty) Murphy, the medical school’s first registrar, died in Waco Sunday, June 12, 2016. She was 89.
Known as “Mom Murphy” by medical school students, she joined the medical school staff in 1975 and retired in 1988.
Despite her retirement from the school, Murphy made an indelible mark on the institution and the people within it. Since 1992, the Betty Murphy Award has been granted to the student in the entering class who best exemplifies her attributes, namely caring for others and kindness.
Edson Cheung, M.D., ’81, R’87, was so touched by Murphy that he endowed a student scholarship in her name. “She was a big influence on me going to school,” said Cheung, a cardiac surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center Dallas. “To me, Mrs. Murphy was like a den mother of a college dormitory – very protective, very loyal.”
Known for her dedication to the students, before the entering class started school, Murphy would stay up at night memorizing the students’ names, and even the names of their spouses and children. “It was my job,” she said.
“Betty Murphy, a strong outspoken and caring person, knew every student by name and was familiar with their joys and woes,” remembered Dr. John Ribble, dean emeritus. “She was their champion and worked diligently for their welfare. Few others have by personal contact contributed as much as Betty to the life and spirit of the School. She influenced the lives of hundreds of students, faculty, and staff. Betty was one of a kind!”
“Betty Murphy fit her name,” recalled Sondra Ives, who retired as the director of the Office Alumni Affairs. “She was red-headed, had a delightful sense of humor, and never met a stranger. She kept a cookie jar in her office for the students, but I will admit I took my share of them. She had a kind heart and a listening ear. My life is enriched for having known her.”
“I have known Betty since she came to the school in 1975 and when she left she would wander in my place from time to time and reminisce about the good old days and the people we were fond of,” said Henny Van Dijk, who retired as the director of the Graphic Communications Group. “She had a wicked sense of humor, and I have included her image and quote from Bryant Boutwell’s book (and my image). Her note said: ‘note the “advanced” media technology – chalk in color!’ Boy, she was something.”
“This is the end of an era,” said Dr. Joel Dunnington, ’81. “I recall we were supposed to start medical school three days after the flood in 1976, and she was great at calming people down, helping out. Even recently she would come to medical school reunions. She was a pretty remarkable lady.”
“She was the mother to all the students in the early years of the school,” recalled Dr. John Green, ’79. “You could go to her with your problems, and she would hold your hand and tell you everything would get better. Occasionally she had the connections to fix problems outside the system when you couldn’t go to the faculty or Dean with your problems as it would make you look weak.”
Green recently visited Murphy and recorded a video of her reflections and memories of the medical school: https://youtu.be/RrxIkbnwUAY
She is survived by her sister Genevieve Sewell of Phoenix; daughter Mary Loots and husband Rick of Rogers, Ark.; son Patrick Murphy and wife Janet of Waco; and son Michael Murphy and wife Sue of Houston; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Stanton Patrick Murphy, and daughter Kathleen.
A Requiem Mass will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 18 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 19915 Cypress Church Road, Cypress, Texas, 77433. A subsequent service will be hosted by Christ Church in Waco at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at Waco Baptist Academy, 6125 Bosque Blvd.
Donations to the Betty Murphy Student Scholarship may be sent to UTHealth, Office of Development, P.O. Box 1321, Houston, TX 77251-1321, or made online https://giving.uth.edu/pages/schools/medical_school/dean-excellence-fund