In many ways, Brookdale is not the same college it was five years ago. College campuses and regional locations sport new science labs, walkways, student centers and a new $19 million classroom building; faculty work together in new Academic Institutes; students pursue four-year degrees through Brookdale’s new University Partnerships.
Across the county, hundreds of high school students are now working toward Brookdale associate degrees as members of groundbreaking Early-College High School programs. This fall, eligible high school graduates will begin receiving full-ride, last-dollar Brookdale scholarships through the new Asbury Park College Promise program. Countless residents are working as certified welders, manufacturers and health care workers after completing new grant-funded career training courses.
There are new academic programs, new approaches to developmental education, new clubs and student services, new public transportation options and new community events. New opportunities for students to get involved on campus and get ahead in the workforce.
A lot has changed at Brookdale since 2012. One thing that hasn’t, however, is the college’s reputation for excellence, innovation and student success. Along with the name outside the president’s door.
Throughout some of the steepest challenges ever faced by the college – including changing demographics, declining funding, and a historic superstorm that made landfall shortly into her first school year – Brookdale President Maureen Murphy has remained a constant.
“Dr. Murphy came on board at a difficult time,” said former Brookdale Board of Trustees chair Brian Butch, part of the board who unanimously voted to hire Murphy in 2012. “We worked together and had many sessions to set goals and train board members. We came up with a plan and asked Dr. Murphy to execute it. All the things we asked her to do were accomplished… It’s unusual to have somebody get a 100 on a test like that. It was no small task, yet she worked like crazy.”
That work would continue, long into the night and early in the morning, for the next five years. Now, after touching countless lives and personally handing out thousands of diplomas to local students over the course of her Brookdale career, Murphy is heading to the College of Southern Maryland, where she will assume the presidency on July 1.
Before she could escape, however, a capacity crowd of faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and current and former board members lured Murphy to the Monmouth Museum on the Lincroft campus on May 25 for a surprise farewell party. Throughout the evening, many of Murphy’s closest colleagues took time out to reminisce, roast and recognize the accomplishments of Brookdale’s fearless leader.
“As you may know, Maureen is a huge fan of the Muppets,” said vice president for learning Matthew Reed. “And I think of Kermit the Frog, holding everything down, keeping the insanity in check while the show goes on… But perhaps the best analogy comes from [Maryland-based author] Edgar Allen Poe. Poe wrote ‘The Purloined Letter,’ which was about a clue that was hidden in plain sight, and nobody saw it. I think of Maureen as the ‘purloined president.’ She has been in plain sight all this time, and maybe we didn’t see what we had. I think when she is gone we are going to see what we had.”
Those sentiments were echoed in a series of emotional speeches by Marie Lucier Woodruff, Patricia Sensi, Joan Scocco and Maureen Lawrence, who provided a look back on both the hurdles and highlights of Murphy’s Brookdale career.
“Dr. Maureen Murphy is all of these things,” said Lawrence. “She is kind, she’s smart, she’s creative, she’s honest, she’s funny, she’s dedicated, and we have been blessed to have her for the past five years. She has led the number one community college in the state of New Jersey, and we will miss her.”
“We’ve come a very long way in five years,” added Lucier Woodruff, who was Murphy’s first official hire in 2012. “And I sincerely don’t think we would have done so well without your leadership. With your strategic focus and your limitless energy, you have led us through some very difficult times. And we are very grateful for that.”
The farewell party, thrown by a host of volunteers from CulinArt, Auxiliary Services and the Monmouth Museum, also featured gift presentations by members of the Continuing and Professional Studies division and fine art studio assistant Erik Johanson, who crafted a custom, one-of-a-kind wall sculpture for Murphy’s new home.
The party came on the heels of the Brookdale Board of Trustees’ May 16 public meeting, where Murphy was presented with an official certificate of recognition and honored by a number of past and present Brookdalians.
Trustee Tracey Abby-White joined a number of colleagues in expressing her appreciation for Murphy’s contributions to the college, its students, and the Monmouth County community. Paraphrasing a 1910 speech by Theodore Roosevelt, Abby-White said that Murphy’s legacy will be one of tireless effort and dedication in the face of daunting odds – a legacy that will live on at Brookdale for many years to come.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” said Abby-White.
“The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. I thank you for your service, Dr. Murphy.”
View more photos from Maureen Murphy’s Farewell Party here.