OXFORD, Miss. – When parents pass on a deeply held belief in the power of education and a steadfast devotion to a university, as did the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Martin Murphree Sr., the belief and devotion are often continued and strengthened by their children.
That is the foundation for the Thomas Martin Murphree Sr. Scholarship Endowment, a newly created fund to support students pursuing degrees in the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration. Creating the scholarship with a gift of $135,000 are the Murphrees’ three sons: Robert S. Murphree of Jackson, Miss.; Thomas M. Murphree Jr. of Summit, Miss.; and Dr. Dennis H. Murphree of San Antonio, Texas.
“Establishing this scholarship in memory of our father was a natural fit because he was such a proponent of people having access to quality education,” said Robert Murphree, an attorney. “My mother, Margaret Murphree, formed the idea for this scholarship before she died in 2008, and my brothers and I agreed it was the perfect way to pay tribute to our father’s life and values.”
The scholarship endowment is designed to recognize and assist freshmen entering the UM business school, where Thomas M. Murphree Sr. earned his college degree.
“Thomas and Margaret Murphree were inspiring role models,” said UM Chancellor Robert Khayat. “Supporting the university through their involvement and attendance at campus events became a strong family tradition – a tradition their children continue today. We are deeply grateful to the Murphree family for this remarkable scholarship endowment that certainly will open doors for deserving young people. Experiencing the Murphrees’ interest in, and enthusiasm for, their state, their university, education and people in general, we believe this scholarship is a wonderful way to continue their legacy.”
Robert Murphree agreed that his family’s connection with the university runs deep and expressed his hopes that scholarship recipients will reap benefits from a UM education as his family members have.
“From the foundation of an Ole Miss education, my dad was able to provide a good life for his family and himself,” the son said. “Likewise, my brothers and I are grateful for the education we received and the lives we have been able to lead. We hope this scholarship will provide young people the opportunities in education and in life that they might not otherwise have. In addition, we want to honor the leadership of Chancellor Khayat. He inspires families like ours to do whatever they can to strengthen the university.”
Thomas Murphree Sr. was a recognized business professional in the insurance industry. His family’s roots were in Calhoun County before his parents moved to Jackson in 1925. Murphree graduated from Central High School in Jackson before enrolling in Ole Miss. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Thomas Murphree met his wife, Margaret, while they were both working for the Works Progress Administration, which was created to help provide economic relief to citizens during the Great Depression. They married in 1940 and had five children.
Before her death, Margaret Murphree talked about rearing her children in an interview with the university.
“Education has always been very important to us. When the children were growing up, we came together at the dinner table three times a day for meals. Our family had very lively discussions around that dinner table. I took the children to the public library every week. I wanted them to have inquiring minds,” said Mrs. Murphree, who graduated from Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) but was known for being a passionate Ole Miss fan.
“I first met Mrs. Murphree when Chancellor Khayat and I visited the University Medical Center. This amazing, vivacious lady was already in her 80s,” said Sandra M. Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation. “The Ole Miss football team was not doing so well at the time, and Mrs. Murphree was quick to tell the chancellor we needed a new coach. She also volunteered for the job, and I think she was halfway serious. She believed in people being accountable and that quick action should be taken to get things on track. She had a zest for living and felt as though everyone could accomplish their dreams with study, preparation and hard work.”
Three of the couple’s five children earned degrees from Ole Miss, and now some of the 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren are continuing the tradition by choosing Ole Miss as their college home. The couple’s son, Carl McKay Murphree, and daughter, Margaret Murphree Brown, are deceased.
The Thomas Martin Murphree Sr. Scholarship will assist deserving students from Mississippi based on need and merit.
For more information on making a gift to UM’s School of Business Administration, visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.
Story by Tina Hahn