Honoring Lt. Michael Murphy, Medal of Honor Winner

September 13, 2012 at 10:43 am 3 comments

For the members of the 2011 Senior Class Gift Committee, the process was just like every other year, planning and fundraising for months—until they sat down to lunch with the family of the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy.

They spent the afternoon reminiscing about Murphy’s time at Penn State: how he always got good grades, loved going to the Rathskeller, and was once chased by a squirrel on the Henderson Mall. They also talked about how Murphy ’98 was humble, how even as a student, he always put others ahead of himself.

He did the same thing as a Navy SEAL. He was killed in Afghanistan during a reconnaissance mission in 2005, but before he died, he exposed himself to the enemy to give his men time to get to safety. (Read more about his heroic efforts here.) He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration.

Murphy’s family opened up to the committee about their son after learning the forthcoming class gift, a Veterans Plaza, would be constructed near Old Main to honor Penn State veterans and their son, Penn State’s only Medal of Honor recipient. To many veterans and community members, a military memorial on Penn State’s campus was long overdue.

“Having the opportunity to sit down with his family and talk about Michael and his time at Penn State and what the gift would mean to his family—it was very touching,” says Geoff Halberstadt ’11, gift development chair for the Senior Class Gift Committee. “It was really rewarding to see how meaningful this gift was for not only their family, but also other Penn State families. The whole process was just remarkable.”

The committee raised more than $250,000 from students, alumni, and people in the State College community, the highest amount in class gift history.

“Seeing how many students felt a connection to this gift and were willing to give so much to make it one of the better gifts—that made it one of the most successful gifts in the history of the program,” says Ben Witt ’11, overall chairman for the committee.

Murphy, left, is Penn State’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The committee got creative with fundraising for the plaza when they hosted the Warrior Games in 2011 with the Penn State Veterans Organization. The event was based on “The Murph,” which was the workout routine Murphy practiced: a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, topped off with another one-mile run. “Half Murph” and “Mini Murph” versions of the workout were available for students to participate. Witt says it was one of their most successful events.

After many months of hard work, construction for the plaza, located off the northeast corner of Old Main, is almost complete. It will feature a circular walkway with a stone wall surrounding a representation of a warrior’s shield. With its central location on campus, Witt said the plaza is a convenient spot for students to relax, study or meet with friends.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Old Main patio, visitors, alumni, and students can learn more about the plaza and pay respects Murphy. Among the speakers at the dedication ceremony will be President Rodney Erickson, trustee and former Navy SEAL Capt. Ryan McCombie ’70, university archivist Jackie Esposito; and Lt. Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy. Seating is limited, but all are welcome.

Erika Spicer, intern

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“Justifying the Roar,” Even at 0-2 Emerging from the Storm: Conversation Highlights

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. R Thomas Berner  |  September 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

    How about the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel and the Wagner Building? OK, individuals, but still well deserved military memorials.

    Until 1990, the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel (named for a Penn State journalism grad killed in World War II) was the largest high speed water tunnel in the world.

    To this day, Penn State still loves Ed Wagner. It named a building for him—Wagner Building on Curtin Road, which houses the University’s ROTC programs. And every time one of our Penn State Alumni Association tours goes to Normandy, we pay homage to his memory at the foot of his grave. It’s one of the 9,386 white crosses and stars of David that fill the U.S. Military Cemetery on the cliffs near Colville sur Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach.

  • 2. A.J.  |  September 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Hooyah Murph!!
    For the glory…

  • 3. Nick Panco  |  January 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I am a Penn Stater through and through – I bleed blue and white! As a life member of the Alumni Association I had come to greatly enjoy our beautifully done Penn Stater magazine or many, many years.
    That all ended the time they decided to use Valery Plame – a much LESS distinguished Alum, for the cover of the issue – when Mike Murphy was awarded his MOH!

    I lost much respect for the editors of that publication after that, and it still angers me every time I think about it. For me, that nullifies all the good covers and articles they have done over the years.
    They can never make up for that in my opinion.

    PSU grad -1977, USMC – 2 tours in I-Corps Vietnam – 68/69

    God Bless our Alma Mater, and God Bless America !!

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