A Tribute To Enduring
Even though he grew up in upstate New York, my CUA classmate Mike Murphy was a huge Washington Redskins fan. Since I have season tickets, each year he would badger me to take him to a ’Skins game. After our 30th CUA class reunion in June 2004, we set a date: the Redskins vs. the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 31.
About three weeks before the game, I received a call from another alum saying, “Hey, I hear you are throwing a party at your house on Oct. 30. Count me in!”
When I paused, it dawned on the caller that this party was news to me.
“Murphy didn’t tell you yet?”
“Nope,” I said.
But party we did — about 20 classmates gathered at my house that Saturday night, just as Mike had planned it. The only bad thing about that weekend was that the Redskins lost to the Packers, 28-14.
This was just one of the many times my classmates and I have gathered informally since our 2004 class reunion. For some of the alums, these gatherings were simply a continuation of friendships cherished and nurtured since graduation day; others became reacquainted through a twist of fate.
That fateful twist — our first unofficial meeting — was in early 2004. A classmate of ours is a judge. When she was sworn in to office, the ceremony attracted about 15 of us from the Class of 1974. It was there that we decided it would be fun to get as many of our classmates as possible to come back to campus for our official 30th class reunion in June.
For me to make the commitment to come to the reunion was not as easy as it might sound. I have been at CUA as a student and employee for nearly 40 years and have been known to tell friends privately that I don’t like homecomings and reunions because I never went away. But, in spite of my misgivings, I signed up to be a guest at the reunion party. And in so doing, I learned what I hope many others have learned or will learn: that the friendships they made at CUA will last a lifetime and that reunions don’t just happen on campus — they happen wherever we gather.
I don’t know why, except perhaps that it struck me as funny, but I vividly remember receiving a call from a female classmate in May 2004. “Is that the ‘real’ Bobby Galvez who is signed up for our 30th reunion?” she asked.
“Well, the name is spelled wrong on the guest list,” I replied. “But who else could it be?”
When 32 members of the Class of 1974 gathered on campus in June, we learned that, indeed, it was Galvez. We hadn’t seen Bobby — son of the Honduran ambassador to the United States in the 1970s — in 30 years. Bobby was what today might be called “eye candy.” With his suave Latin ways and his wry smile, he could turn just about every girl’s head as he walked by. Though he had quite the female fan club, the guys had no clue of it; he was just Galvez, another one of us.
Come to think of it, we hadn’t seen many of our classmates in 30 years. At the reunion, we talked as if the conversation had never ended and we left campus that night as close as we were in May of ’74.
We met again that summer in Long Island, and then at the alumna/judge’s house in Virginia the following May to celebrate the graduation of one of our classmate’s sons from CUA.
We continued to gather, in Long Island and in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and some of us made an annual golfing pilgrimage to Cape Cod. People came from far and near. CUA graduates from 1973, 1975 and 1976 joined in. Our road show went from place to place, fueled by the rock ’n’ roll oldies of the ’70s and the energy of the sorority sisters who danced until they dropped.
Nearly three years after the wave of mini-reunions began, more than 85 of us gathered again. This time, on May 25, 2007, we were burying our classmate Mike Murphy, who died after battling cancer for more than two years — that same Mike Murphy who loved the Redskins and instigated the party at my place.
Most of us had seen him in February at his 55th birthday party in Poughkeepsie. We were all awed by “Murph” and the courage he showed that night. He knew that his days were numbered and that this was likely the last time we would all be together with him, but he still held court in the usual fashion we remembered. He had grown thin and even frail, but his will and determination never changed.
At that party we came to the realization that our 30th reunion had been a turning point for our classmates, our friendships and our lives. We also realized that Mike had been the glue that kept many of us together for the past three years. It had been at that class reunion that we pledged to start getting together again — and Mike had been the one who made us stick to our promises.
More than 1,000 people gathered at Mike’s funeral at the Vassar College Chapel in Poughkeepsie. People from all over the country, in fact all over the world, came to pay tribute to him. The Dutchess County government, for whom Mike was director of public works, gave paid leave to any employee who wanted to attend the funeral. A day earlier, the line at the funeral home went nonstop for eight hours.
There is a plan for our group to gather this summer, and I think we will. One of the things we’ll talk about, I’m sure, is the fund we’re building in Mike’s honor — a fund that he started, in fact. And, as was Mike’s wish, the fund will be used to build a place for students to gather on the CUA campus, a place where friendships can be formed and nurtured. It will be an on-campus pub, a new “Rathskellar.”
Months earlier, I had told Mike that there was nothing in the plans to replace the “Rat” when it closed after the completion of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center in 2003. He couldn’t fathom that there would be no old carved wooden benches and no new version of Franklin, the ubiquitous bartender of our era. He wondered where the lasting CUA friendships would be formed. Where would the next generation of Bobby Galvezes hang out and catch the girls’ eyes?
He shared a vision to create such a place. And now CUA plans to find a spot for it in the Pryz and we already know what we will call it. Murphy’s Pub, of course!
I promised Mike on his 55th birthday that I would throw one heck of a party to open Murphy’s Pub. He smiled and said what he had said to me a million times before, “Love ya, buddy.”
Back at you, Mike.
It’s Your Turn …
Do you have a story you’d like to share with readers about how you’ve kept in contact with fellow CUA alumni over the years? For instance, have you gone on great vacations with alums, supported each other during hard times, helped each other find jobs or prayed with each other? Send in your account of no more than 250 words by Sept. 15 and we’ll print the best of them in either the Letters column or a separate article in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Your entries should be titled “Alumni Friends” and can be submitted by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by regular mail (Catholic University, Office of Public Affairs, Attn: CUA Magazine, Washington, DC 20064).
Revised: August 2008
All contents copyright © 2008.