Teacher Profile – Mrs. Murphy


Shannon Hayes, Student Journalist

The Unsung Hero of Female Athletics at Seton

Seton’s female sports teams are athletic powerhouses. They have a rich history of success dating back decades, such as our girls’ softball team, who’s won four straight NYS titles. Three of their past members are in the NYSHS Softball Hall of Fame. Girls’ basketball has won at least two NYS titles since 2000, with girls’ soccer right behind them. And we can’t forget our girls’ tennis team, consistently bringing home titles since 2000. Yet, few realize that Seton wouldn’t have any of these accomplishments if it weren’t for the efforts of one woman. Many know her as Mrs. Murphy, our 10-12 guidance counselor.

There was a time when Seton didn’t offer any female sports programs. In fact, few schools did. This was the environment Mrs. Murphy grew up in. Still, she was drawn to athletics through her school’s P.E. program. “From the time I was in elementary school, I loved phys ed. I just thought it was the neatest thing,” she told The Voice of the Saints. It was later, in middle school, when she first saw a female P.E. teacher and knew the job was for her.

I remember when I went to my guidance counselor in high school. He said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Academically you should be doing-‘ I said, ‘No. I wanna play games for the rest of my life.’

— Mrs. Murphy

Only 25% of Mrs. Murphy’s high school class went to college, the rest entering the workforce or staying home as parents. The majority of college students were men, but Mrs. Murphy was among them seeking a degree in Health & Phys Ed. She later did some graduate work in administration, working towards her goal to be a P.E. teacher. “There’s just so much to teach. To me it’s part of real life: learning to win, to lose, to cooperate with people at different levels…Some athletes come in for the first time, while others have experience, so you’re learning to meld all those together. It just was an exciting experience for me.” Even then, Mrs. Murphy only planned to teach for five or six years. After that, she thought she’d get married, have children, and stay home. This was the typical path for women in professional fields at the time. Mrs. Murphy recalls that she was the last one in her graduating college class to get engaged.

After graduating, she got a job teaching Health and P.E. at Maine Memorial. While she loved teaching, it grew harder and harder to manage everything as time went on. Mrs. Murphy had her son while working there, and it was a huge hassle trying to get him to daycare before getting to school. It didn’t help that the Murphys lived in Binghamton and had to drive out every day.

Mrs. Murphy was offered a job in Binghamton, which she graciously took. The job came with pros and cons. It was a lot closer, but at the time their P.E. program was severely lacking. She worked at all five different elementary schools, visiting one per day. None of these schools had a gym. She taught in classrooms and hallways, with the only equipment she was given: a box of jump ropes and 5 rubber balls. In one school, Mrs. Murphy taught gym in what she referred to as the “coal bin” – a room that was roughly the size of her current guidance office. The schools also stated that students weren’t allowed to make any noise. Since P.E. was taught in classrooms and hallways, the school thought the noise would be disruptive to other classes.

That’s what drove Mrs. Murphy to the Catholic schools, and it was a perfect it. “When I came to Seton I thought I was in Nirvana.” This was back when Seton Catholic was in Endicott, in the current All Saints building. The principal at the time was Father Van Amburgh, who was very supportive of Mrs. Murphy and her ideas. “We had a tremendous principal who was very much into sports. He said, ‘Whatever you need to do or want to do with this program, go right ahead.’ So I developed a lot of different sports and activities for the kids.”

While teaching Health and P.E., Mrs. Murphy coached girls’ basketball and softball, as well as started the cross country and girls’ soccer programs. In order to have a sport at the time, there had to be 5 different teams. Seton was usually the smallest school in this division, and was typically joined by two teams from Vestal, one from Ithaca, and then one from Oneonta or whomever Mrs. Murphy and her fellow coaches could find. “We would get that going so that our girls would have the opportunity to play and do things that develop all of those wonderful characteristics.” Under her coaching, her basketball team won four S.T.A.C. (Southern Tier Athletic Conference) Championships and five Section IV Championships. Her soccer teams were sectional finalists twice and champions five times. 

Part of the reason Mrs. Murphy was able to start and maintain these programs so effectively was the recent passage of Title IX, an educational amendment that prohibited discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities. “I was lucky when I started Seton, Title IX just came in. At that point, I was put on the women’s council for S.T.A.C.” 

For STAC, Mrs. Murphy was the Associate Executive Secretary for women’s sports. “I would do all their schedules and bring forth all the recommendations from all the women coaches to the executive board.” There were a lot of opportunities she had to fight for too. Mrs. Murphy vividly recalls trying to explain to the executive board why she and her fellow coaches believed women should be allowed to play in the arena for basketball. “Some of the men were thinking ‘No one wants to watch girls.’ It was very chauvinistic. For a long time, I was the only female in the room. It was exciting.”

Through her work for Seton and STAC, Mrs. Murphy got involved with Section IV. At one time, she became President of Section IV. Now, she represents them on the executive committee of New York State Public High School and chairs three different committees for them.

As for Seton, Mrs. Murphy has held several different faculty positions over the years. There was a time when she became a guidance counselor for freshmen. She advanced to Assistant Athletic Director and later Athletic Director. Mrs. Murphy also did what she refers to as “plain teaching”, where she taught in the mornings at SCC and in the afternoons as St. James. This made it fun to see some of her elementary students grow up and head to Seton. “A lot if the kids that I’ve known, I’ve known them for several years.”

Eventually, though Mrs. Murphy decided it was time to retire. In 2013, to thank her for all of her service, the Catholic Schools of Broome County inducted her into their “5-0” Athletic Hall of Fame. Two years later, she was inducted into the Section IV Hall of Fame. Not long after, a former student created a scholarship in her name. She’s also received awards for her coaching in basketball as well as soccer.

Mrs. Murphy spent a lot of her retirement with her two grandchildren, who are now in college. She had the luxury of going to Europe several times, once with Mr. Hyland, one of Seton’s previous history teachers. Together they toured Greece and Italy. She also is very thankful to a former student of hers that has given her the opportunity to travel with her. This student has taken Mrs. Murphy to see Ireland and France.

But Mrs. Murphy has probably spent the majority of her retirement working for Section IV. She currently chairs their Student Athlete Committee, Sportsmanship and Ethics Committee, and Handbook Committee. Some of her responsibilities through them are writing and negotiating what the rules should be, as well as setting up the handbooks with the contact information for everyone coaching that sport in Section IV. “I’m redoing all the handbooks at this point – new rules, what happens when you get to the game, how much time do you have for warmups… you know, all that good stuff.”

Why did she come out of retirement? In the words of Mrs. Murphy herself, “I got bored.” Even with the Section IV committees to chair, Mrs. Murphy was looking for ways to keep herself occupied. Originally she planned on just being a substitute teacher. However, one of her previous students, Mr. Martinkovic, asked her to be his secretary until Mrs. Levis could take over. Next she was asked to cover for several guidance counselors as they went on maternity leave or left the school. Mrs. Murphy accepted.

Her favorite part of being a guidance counselor has been watching seniors get their acceptance letters. “Especially when they’re applying early decision and now they’re just finding out…A lot of them have gotten in where they wanted to go.” She also loves getting to know students in general.

At this point Mrs. Murphy has worked at Seton for over 50 years. It’s clear she’s left a legacy. Sports at Seton would not be remotely similar without the paths she’s paved. Next time you stop into the guidance office, consider thanking her for all that she’s done. Years later, she still has advice to give to upcoming female athletes (although everyone could probably learn from it):

“Just remember it’s a short time. When you boil it down: do the best you can and form wonderful friendships. Support each other. I think one of the things I get very annoyed with is women putting down other women. We need to build each other up, because there isn’t enough time to be nasty to each other. There’s so many people around here that do it for you, so you need to be kind to each other and build each other up. But what a great experience. I mean leadership, just building skills that are lifelong…I just find it a great outlet for most women. To be able to take care of themselves first, because you’ve got so many other duties you’re expected to do. You need to make yourself number one. It may sound selfish but if you don’t take care of yourself and your well-being, mental health as well as physical, you can’t help a lot of people.”

Oh, and make sure you grab a piece of candy on the way out.