The Meaning of Life With Mr. Murphy

Lilly Krongard '23, Guest Writer

Mr. Murphy is SLS’s American history teacher extraordinaire with the most fashionable pants in the school. He has been working at St. Luke’s for 31 years and is a staple of the Upper School History Department. Every day, he instills his knowledge of American history in his students, but in this article, he goes beyond history and shares more of his wisdom with us. We are lucky enough to have a follow-up to Ms. Doran’s meaning of life; now we have “The Meaning of Life with Mr. Murphy.” I asked Murphy a variety of questions, from his hockey career, his love for American history, to his Canadian roots. 

What happened with your hockey career?

“My hockey career, there really wasn’t much of a hockey career. I didn’t play enough in college to sign a contract…I was drafted by Toronto. After my senior year of high school, I was taken in the twelfth round by Toronto. I was their last pick. First pick of the twelfth round, I think.”

How did you get into golf and do you enjoy coaching it?

I got into golf because, when I was little or younger, friends of mine played. Same thing with hockey, baseball—I played because my friends were playing…Golf is just a game you fall in love with, so after my multiple back surgeries, I’m still able to play, which is fun. I’m not as good as I used to be, which is frustrating, but we’ll get there. I need to see if I can play a little bit more on my own…, so I’m going to take a step back. But I coached the golf team for, oh, 22-23 years before my back got bad, and I couldn’t do it.”

Do you think you’re better at golf than Ms. Doran?

“I know I’m better at golf than Ms. Doran.”

*Ms. Doran’s Rebuttal: “Painfully accurate…”

Why do you like American history even though you’re Canadian?

“You know what? It’s hard to pin that down. I think it just grew on me. The more I read, the more I liked about it. There’s so many issues that are big issues that aren’t just American issues. You can see them spread outward, and you can see how the United States sort of just continued to grow and grow and grow. There’s always a way to present it, there’s always a way to talk about it, to debate it.”

What is the most Canadian saying you can think of that an American wouldn’t understand? What does it mean?

“It’s hard to come up with a clean one. Nob. To put it nicely, you’re a nudge, you try too hard.”

What is the biggest culture shock you experienced coming to America?

I grew up right on the border, so it wasn’t a big cultural shock coming in, because we knew people who lived in the States…It literally is a small, little river separating my town, St. Stephen, New Brunswick and Calais, Maine. The biggest cultural shock that I probably found is…taking a standardized test to try to get into boarding school. And then going to boarding school, just seeing so many [people] from so many different places. Different accents, different countries, I grew up in a really small town, and we didn’t really go anywhere within a certain portion of the province…It was very homogenous and to see the differences whether they be…cultural differences, economic differences, race…there was so much more that I experienced at boarding school, which was a lot of fun, a lot of fun.”

Where do you get your Christmas pants?

“My wife buys them. I got my first pair years ago, and I kind of laughed when she bought them and then [I began] wearing them, and then she got me another pair for Christmas or my birthday and  we finally got to three or four, and we decided that we keep adding until we get to five.”

What do you do in your little history department friend group and how did Lebris become an honorary member? 

“We get together. They come over to my place. I live close by. We’ve got a fire pit going in the fall or spring…in the winter we’re just inside. We either bring food or cook food or whatever, and we just hang out and talk. I’ve known Lebris since he was a student here at St. Luke’s. He’s been a friend for a long time, and he’s obviously an acquaintance, you know, good friends with everyone else. He kinda just swings by, and I guess we’ve adopted him.”

Who do you think is the stupidest historical figure in American history and why?

“The stupidest? I’m going to plead the 5th on that one. I’m going to plead the 5th. Maybe in the future, if you interview me again I’ll come up with someone.”

Mr. Murphy is not only full of knowledge of American history, but also harbors the wisdom of a golf playing, hockey coaching, American history teaching Canadian.