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Duquesne's Murray bids farewell to alums

Friday, April 27, 2001

By Eleanor Chute, Post-Gazette Education Writer

For most retiring university presidents, this would be a season of the last speech, the last commencement, the last luncheon.

But for Duquesne University President John E. Murray Jr., 68, these are just a series of last events as president before he becomes chancellor and law professor at Duquesne.

Duquesne University President John Murray watches a video tribute to his 13 years as leader of the school yesterday at the annual alumni luncheon at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown. Murray's presidency ends June 30, and the university is in the midst of selecting a successor. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

His 13-year presidency ends June 30. The university is in the midst of selecting a successor.

Yesterday's annual alumni luncheon at the Omni William Penn Hotel was billed as his "last general address."

Between now and the time Murray's presidency ends, he will be the main speaker at Honors Day and the Law School graduation and pick up three honorary degrees, two from Duquesne and one from Carnegie Mellon University.

He taught his last contract law class for the term yesterday morning, and he's finishing the fourth edition of his book on contract law.

A video at the luncheon highlighted the Murray years, beginning with a university whose accreditation was deferred, whose student enrollment had declined by 300 and whose library, grants and scholarship funds were lagging.

It depicted a tenure in which $219 million was raised; the university was named among the top Catholic schools by U.S. News and World Report; 150 new programs and two new schools were started; new buildings were built; and a theme of "education for the mind, the heart and the soul" took hold.

Murray's introduction after the video brought a standing ovation, but he said that the improvements were the work of many, not just himself. He thanked everyone from the grounds crew to the faculty as well as corporations, foundations and others who have supported the university.

He said that the Rev. Sean Hogan, executive vice president for student life, has the "hardest job on campus."

Hogan will stay on, but the two other vice presidents, Isadore Lenglet, executive vice president for management and business, and Michael Weber, provost and academic vice president, will retire from their posts. Both will have other duties associated with the university.

Murray gave a special thanks to his wife of 46 years, Liz, who he said was "indispensable" to his success.

Murray is the first lay president of the Catholic university. He expressed pride that the university's student body of about 10,000 comes from 115 nations and every state in the United States and every race and of "all backgrounds, all faiths, all colors, all creeds."

Murray recalled after his speech that his biggest obstacle on arriving was getting people to believe in the school.

Now Murray said that it's time for a new team at Duquesne to lead for the next five to 10 years. He said the current top administration is "too old" to continue this "very, very exhausting kind of effort" for more than another year or two.

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