New dean brings new vision

August 19, 2010

When John Murray said goodbye for good to his home in Statesboro, Ga., only his blonde dachshund, Honey, was sitting in the front seat next to him for the 12-hour drive to Terre Haute.

His wife, Rebecca, and 10-year-old daughter Kate had already traveled ahead of him to shop for and ultimately close the deal on his new home east of Indiana State University.

"My wife brokered our whole house deal," he said. "I am the classic case of male privilege, I'll just say that right now. I came up here, and I had a home, and my stuff was in it."

Murray, the new dean of ISU's College of Arts and Sciences, was three weeks behind his wife in traveling to Indiana because he was wrapping up loose ends associated with the 17 years he spent at Georgia Southern University as a psychology professor and then department chairman. The move was somewhat bittersweet for him, he said, because of the ties he had made to the community and the professional accomplishment he had achieved.

"Georgia Southern turned out to be a good place for me," he said of the school at which he never planned to work for more than a few years.

"When I first crossed the state line into Georgia, I said to myself ‘I do not want to die here.' But I found the sweet spot of my teaching and I got my research going. The students were very nice. Everything just kind of fell into place in my life there."

The last six years in particular helped him develop his skills as an administrator, he said.

Under his leadership, Georgia Southern established a psychology clinic that serves rural Georgia counties and provides a vital training ground for educating students. He was also instrumental in establishing a doctoral program in clinical psychology.

Perhaps his most significant accomplishment during his time in Georgia was meeting and starting a family with his wife, a practicing clinical psychologist and former colleague who resigned her position in Georgia Southern's psychology department after her husband became chairman.

Now that he has said goodbye to the South, Murray says he's anxious to take on the task of leading the largest of ISU's six colleges.

About one-third of ISU's 10,500 students are pursuing majors in the college, which is home to 19 academic departments and more than 230 faculty members in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

"I'm starting to realize there's virtually nothing that the College of Arts and Sciences doesn't touch," he said. "It's something to be very excited about because we have the privilege to educate all of these students through these foundational studies courses."

"When we start talking about how we're going to bring students into the university and retain them, we play a very strong role in that process," Murray said.

Murray doesn't expect to have much down time in the first few weeks and months of acquainting himself with the responsibilities that come with serving as a dean, but in those rare moments of relaxation you might see him cycling on the country roads and bike trails of Indiana.

Once a cycler who participated in so many triathlons that he strained his neck and back, he's now content to take "short" 25- or 30-mile jaunts on Saturday mornings, he said.

"I had what I would call a pathological, sick streak about it," he said. "I'm over that now."

Also on his list of things to do is attend some of the local theater productions, check out some of the city parks that he says are part of Terre Haute's charm and make a weekend visit or two to his hometown of Indianapolis where his brother and sister still reside.

But he insists the family ties weren't what led him back home to Indiana.
"I wanted to find a place where I believed I could bring something to the table," he said. "And ISU has turned out to be the place where I can do that."

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University Communications and Marketing, rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu, 812-237-3790.