For the Love of (those who play) the Game
by Maureen A. Nolan
Dennis Murphy is pretty sure he hasn’t missed a Continentals home football game in the 40-plus years he’s worked at Hamilton. Before the games he distributes jerseys and pants; afterward he collects them. In the interim he roots for the players. He knows them all.
A sports lover, Murphy took a pay cut after 15 years on Hamilton’s grounds crew to join the Athletics Department. He’s the equipment manager, a job that requires a connection with student-athletes even more than a love of sports or command of details. Murphy likes students, and vice versa. They’ll sometimes stick their head in the window of the equipment office to chat with him for 10 minutes at a stretch.
“It’s the best part of the job to get to know them. I’m friends with a lot of them after they graduate. Sometimes you see them when they are down, talk to them a little bit, and say ‘how you doing,’ stuff like that. It’s important, I think,” Murphy says.
His job has a thousand moving parts: cleats, helmets, laundry, students who can’t find something. The list runs on. If the work is on occasion stressful or hard or frustrating, you won’t hear Murphy crabbing at a kid. In his early days in the Athletics Department he developed a philosophy inspired by former trainer and track coach Gene Long and the Rev. John Croghan. In Murphy’s view, he’s there for the kids, not the other way around. A believer in the Golden Rule, he’s attuned to students’ moods.
Once he saw a first-year international student crying beneath a tree outside her residence hall. He stopped to talk to her and learned of her anxiety at being far from her parents. He ended up hiring her to work with him. His support for another student whose mother was ill with cancer helped that student stick it out at Hamilton. Over the decades Murphy has invited students to his home or taken them to lunch. “Why not?” he says.
The result of all this — an unofficial Murphy fan club that runs decades deep. This spring, the Alumni Association presented him with its Distinguished Service Award, and should he want to display it in his basement office, he’ll need to do some rearranging. His most visible wall is covered with notes, postcards, baby photos, and wedding announcements alumni have sent him over the years.