The following article was contributed by Fr. Leopold Glueckert, O.Carm, School Chaplain.
The “Miracle on 64th Street” has certainly had its share of high points and golden ages. But among the really excellent leaders over the years has been a local, neighborhood kid who rose to contribute great things to Carmelite education.
John Murphy was born in 1918, and grew up within a stone’s throw of Mt. Carmel as a member of St. Cyril’s parish. He went to the Carmelite Seminary in Niagara Falls, and professed his first vows in 1936, taking the religious name of David. His brother Roland Murphy also became a Carmelite, and went on to become one of the greatest scripture scholars in the United States. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1942, he was assigned to Mt. Carmel, where he would remain for the next 18 years.
David was a brilliant student, and would continue his studies to earn a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Chicago, and a Doctorate in Theology from Notre Dame. During his early years on Dante Avenue, David taught Latin, History, Sociology, and a variety of subjects, and was known as an exceptional teacher. He also served as Prefect of Studies, which enabled him to strengthen the academic quality of the curriculum and introduce more challenging courses and more demanding teachers. His students always found him to be a tough but fair teacher, with a penetrating stare and a stern personality. But they also admitted that he was kind, amiable, and a good judge of character.
When he became Principal in 1954, he lost no time adding more energy to the already booming program. He made it a point to find and hire some of the best lay teachers available. Several of those became the next generation of faculty lions: Jim Gawne, Matt Smith, Nick Iosue, Tom Townsend. In addition, he made the pivotal determination to begin admitting black students, a decision which met with substantial criticism at the time. Some observers compared his top-to bottom improvements with those of Fr. Hesburgh at Notre Dame.
David only left Mt. Carmel in 1961 because he was named to open a new school, Carmel for Boys, in Mundelein. At that time, there were no Catholic high schools in Lake County, where the public schools were of exceptional quality, with districts like Evanston and New Trier. Cardinal Meyer decided to open a co-institutional high school there, with two separate schools (girls and boys) who would share common facilities, like library, science labs, cafeteria, and athletic fields. In his vision, he wanted to provide the best teachers available. So he asked the BVM sisters to administer the girls’ school, and the Carmelites to run the boys’ school, with David Murphy to lead them.
In 1966, Fr. David was appointed Superintendent of Carmelite Schools, which at that time numbered 11. He was also Regent of Studies, which meant that he supervised the programs of other Carmelites at universities and educational institutions. His great versatility assured a high quality for those going into Carmelite education. These years were followed by an amazing number of other educational and pastoral ministries. David Murphy died in 2014 at age 95. His legacy continues to grow with the success of the Carmelite schools and those young people who benefit from their formation.