As her over 30-year career comes to a bittersweet end, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jan Murphy hopes that she will be remembered for being kind.
“It was always my goal to have a job where I felt like I was doing something good for someone,” Murphy said.
Now, as she prepares for retirement from Illinois State University, Murphy believes that she was truly able to do just that.
Murphy has always had a passion for education. She said her life was changed through her own education, so she made it her goal to do the same for others.
Murphy started her path to higher education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she earned her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, a master’s degree in human nutrition and eventually a Ph.D. in nutrition research.
Her career at ISU started in 1986 when she accepted a position as an assistant professor in family and consumer sciences.
At the time, there were only two positions available in the country for her area of study, she said. She was between Baylor and ISU.
From the second Murphy stepped on campus for her interview, she knew that ISU was a special place.
“I fell in love with the place, fell in love with the people,” she said. “The faculty and mission of the university was perfect for me.”
Murphy eventually became a full professor in 1995. This was just the beginning of what she considers a very rewarding experience.
She has worn many hats during her time as a Redbird, including former assistant dean and associate dean in the College of Applied Science and Technology. Murphy also served as the former chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.
“Jan Murphy’s professionalism and deep love for Illinois State University have been hallmarks of her career,” Board of Trustees Chairperson Julie Annette Jones said.
“Through her experience in the classroom and in numerous administrative roles, Dr. Murphy has brought a wealth of knowledge to her role as provost. I join the whole Illinois State community in thanking her for her years of service to the university.”
Most rewarding for Murphy was her time as the director of campus dining services.
Not only was she able to put her knowledge of dietetics and nutrition into practice, but it was also an opportunity that would later aid in her success as provost.
“This position made me a better administrator in academic affairs because it sort of cemented my appreciation for the importance of a strong division of student affairs,” Murphy said.
She said she enjoyed this role so much because she was able to interact with students directly through student affairs. Her other positions were strictly academic affairs, which she said limited her ability to make strong connections with individual students.
“It was an amazing experience … I never worked around such a hard-working group of people,” Murphy said.
“It reminded me that although the faculty all reside in academic affairs, I felt like everybody in student affairs is still an educator … they all believe in creating the best learning environment, which helps support the university’s educational mission, making academics function better.”
Murphy was appointed to the role of interim vice president for Academic Affairs and provost in 2017 and transitioned into a permanent position in 2018 after serving more than 10 years as associate provost and interim provost in 2008.
“Throughout her career, Jan Murphy has been a dedicated teacher, researcher, and administrator and those experiences made her a natural fit in the role of provost,” ISU President Larry Dietz said.
“Dr. Murphy’s deep knowledge of teaching and learning, passion for student success and support for faculty and staff involved in the academic enterprise have made her a valuable asset to the Illinois State community. She has been a trusted colleague and I deeply appreciate her years of service to the university. I will miss working with her on a daily basis, but I wish her the very best as she embarks on retirement.”
Murphy’s last official day with the university is Tuesday. Since the pandemic shut down campus, Murphy has been finishing her career from home.
In all her years, she said that this was the first time she has ever had to work from home. She misses being on campus and being around the excitement of students. Most of all, she was saddened that students were not able to participate in traditional commencement.
“I love commencement,” she said. “It is such a joy and truly a cumulation of everything that we do.”
But she knows that this is not goodbye.
Murphy still plans to continue living in town and being involved with the university from afar. She looks forward to spending more time with family.
Her hope is that the ISU community will see her as someone that worked hard and worked on behalf of the university.
“I truly believe that over my 35 years that as a whole I have worked with a great group of people who have made this university better.”
“When I came here in ’86, we didn’t have the stature and the recognition that we have now. I think through the years, I look now and I see us as a top 100 university and I think of the reputation that we have and it makes me feel good to know that I was a part of a team that was able to make that happen.”