University of Viterbo
The first time senior engineering major Gordon Murphy went to pay his tuition, he had an experience few any student at the University of Viterbo has: He stood face-to-face with a portrait of his grandfather.
There was a framed black-and-white photograph of W. Leo Murphy on the second floor of the Murphy Center. The picture was there for good reason, of course — the 81-year-old building was renamed in honor of Leo Murphy in 1972, just weeks after his death at age 68.
Leo Murphy ran Gateway Transportation Company, one of the most successful trucking companies in the country, and was a major supporter of Viterbo. He served as the first chairman of a new Viterbo Board of Advisors, formed in 1953. In 1966, he was named along with Howard Dahl to the Board of Trustees of Viterbo, the first time laymen were asked to serve as trustees. He went on to co-chair the fundraising effort to build the Center for the Fine Arts of Viterbo.
people are reading…
Gordon Murphy was born the youngest son of Leo, Piers Michael Murphy, and his wife, Cleo. Growing up, Murphy did not know much about his grandfather, who died before Gordon was born, but learned more about him as part of his studies in Viterbo.
For example, Murphy learned that his grandfather was the driving force behind the Gateway, that he was a huge supporter of the Boy Scouts of America (guess why this area of the BSA is called the Gateway Council), and that he was a He was a highly motivated person.
Murphy said, “Man, all he did was work.”
The same can be said about grandchildren.
When he was a student at Central High School, Murphy worked three jobs, not necessarily by choice.
“I wasn’t a great high school student. I passed out. Family life had ups and downs. I was literally working to help pay the family’s rent,” Murphy said. “If my life had been all rainbows and sunshine, I would have gone to college to become an architect. That wasn’t in the cards at the time.
Instead of going to college after high school, Murphy worked in the workforce. For two decades, he worked in the manufacturing sector, first with Torrance Casting, then Badger Corrugating, Chart Industries and Trane. He worked in a variety of roles, including machinist and tool making, and was given leadership roles wherever he went.
“I wasn’t trying to be a leader. It just happened,” Murphy said. “I didn’t necessarily want or need power. I just like getting things done.
Murphy was beginning to feel like he needed to make a change, to go on a new path, when his opportunity presented itself. He and his wife, Rebecca, went out to dinner for their second wedding anniversary. While enjoying drinks after dinner, he struck up a conversation with an older couple. The woman taught English in Viterbo, and upon learning of Murphy’s background, noted that there was a new Viterbo engineering degree program and that he could begin his studies at Western Technical College.
“The next day I went to Western and signed up for classes,” he said.
Murphy hopes to finish work on his degree this year, graduating next May, and he credits much of Viterbo’s small class sizes and the personal attention of engineering professors Emily Vanderfleet and Rick Harned for helping him study full-time. Can get through the program while working. Caring for his family, which includes two daughters, 5-year-old Keeley and 1-year-old Leonora, and a mother moving into the advanced stages of dementia. He also helps out when Rebecca needs help with her business, Ladybug Photography.
The beginning of the last school year was especially difficult. Just before the start of the school year, Murphy’s mother’s apartment was uninhabitable due to a flood and it took a lot of work to settle into a new one. A month after the flood, Leonora was born, and a month after that Rebecca was battling a rare fatal infection after being bitten by a stray kitten.
“Viterbo has been great. It’s been tough, but it’s my lifestyle, not school. Emily and Rick have been amazing. The small class sizes have been important not only to me but to a lot of us. Many of these The concepts are very difficult,” Murphy said. “It has been eye-opening, helping me understand what I already know from my 20 years of work experience.”
Viterbo’s engineering program places great emphasis on preparing students to apply their technical knowledge in the workplace. Having Murphy in his class is valuable to the other students, Herndt said, because he has plenty of “real-world” experience working effectively in the tech sector and in a corporate setting.
“Gordon brings a unique depth of technical, practical, workforce and business ownership experience to the classroom,” said Herndt. “Gordon will be the one who will challenge me to explain that the subject matter material does not always match what he has experienced in the workforce. And he has a deep working knowledge of state-of-the-art practices with metal tooling and fabrication that are well documented in the books.” Not available.
While a lot of Viterbo engineering students have yet to figure out what field of engineering they want to go into, Murphy already knows he wants to focus on manufacturing engineering because of his work experience. “I don’t need to do any soul-searching. I love building,” he said.
His future role as an engineer will involve familiar processes, Murphy said, but he will be less and more involved in design, decision making and problem solving. This semester he’s interning at Chart Industries, where he’s worked full-time since 2012, with two years off when he worked at Trane.
On top of his studies, work, and family life, Murphy has something new to worry about this semester, though it’s not necessarily bad. “I constantly get job offers,” he said. “Tesla is really bugging me.”
Harned isn’t surprised that Tesla and other companies would be eager to recruit Murphy.
“Gordon’s in-depth understanding of precision tooling and fabrication, its processes and best practices make him attractive over other engineers without practical work experience,” Hernand said. “Gordon will be the engineer who identifies flaws in the plan, identifies areas of risk, devotes the time, people and resources needed to successfully solve engineering problems, because it’s already in his blood.” They already have a technical depth and work experience that will complement their engineering education.
In pictures and video: A glimpse of November in the Kauli region
Campus Connections appears in Sunday’s La Crosse Tribune to highlight student and faculty achievements at UW-L, Viterbo and Western Technical College. Campuses provide these facilities on a rotating basis.