A Sense of Purpose – Shawn Murphy ’88

Shawn Murphy ’88 remembers the moment Plymouth State Professor Robert Garlitz changed his life with a single question: “Have you ever considered being a college professor?”

Murphy (l) with Ted Koppel, former Nightline anchor, and Peter Ensel, co-director, Center of Communication and Journalism, SUNY College at Plattsburg at News Literacy: Setting a National Agenda held at Stony Brook University in 2009.

Almost 30 years have passed since that day, and Murphy, an English major with dreams of becoming a poet, still recalls how he felt prior to his conversation with Garlitz. His grades had fallen low, and he had begun to question his worth as a poet and writer. Murphy had asked his professor to meet with him at Biederman’s Deli and Pub to discuss his future. His reaction to Garlitz’s question was slow at first, but emphatic: “Teaching? Teaching! That’s what I really want to do…”

In that moment, Murphy realized his latent aspiration to share his love of learning. He wanted most of all to offer indecisive students like him guidance and a sense of purpose—and perhaps teach them something along the way.

This year marks Murphy’s 20th as a college professor and advisor to student-run newspapers. Currently, he is a professor and chair of the journalism department at State University of New York (SUNY) College at Plattsburgh, and the advisor to the student newspaper, Cardinal Points. The paper has received 12 All-American rankings by the Associated Collegiate Press, a Pacemaker Finalist from the National Scholastic Press Association, and in 2010 was named to the college newspaper Hall of Fame.

As for his passion for penning poetry, Murphy notes, “I’m afraid that my career, coupled with life’s other demands, has not allowed me time to write poetry beyond the occasional love poem for my wife or quirky limerick for my children!”