Educator Spotlight: Dr. Joseph Murry, High School Principal, Assistant Headmaster
Where did you go to college? What is your degree(s) or field of study?
University of Louisiana, Lafayette. BS. Physical Education, English
Southeastern Louisiana University. MS. Physical Education, Health
University of New Orleans. PhD. Educational Leadership
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I like the creative part of this job. As a leader, I was always striving to make things better. As we re-built our campus, we had the opportunity to re-build our curriculum and implement some creative programs. We institutionalized the AP program by adding 13-15 AP and dual enrollment courses in the high school and the Springboard program in the middle school. We launched the Bro. James McDonnell scholars program which last year produced its first graduation class who amassed some $6 million dollars in scholarships. We saw the resurgence of our Debate program with a National Championship achievement. Of course, all of this was not done in isolation or through one person, but in collaboration with a great many dedicated individuals and students. Planting the seed, fostering creativity and watching good things blossom through the work of dedicated and caring professionals is the greatest part of my work as a school leader.
How long have you been working for Holy Cross School?
I have served at Holy Cross for 15 years, the past 14 years as Principal and Assistant Headmaster. Ironically, Holy Cross was my very first teaching job in 1968. I taught 7th and 9th grade English and 10th grade religion. It was a good experience and I learned a great deal that year; however, I really wanted to break into coaching and there were no opportunities to do that, so I moved on to pursue opportunities at another school. However, it was a great learning experience for me and one that stuck with me. When I had the opportunity to return as principal, it was very gratifying to me to return to the place where I started. How fitting that I am finishing my career where I started. However, I really needed all of those experiences in between in order to return with a new set of skills in order to take the reigns as principal.
What is one thing that you think makes Holy Cross School a special place?
I love the rich history of Holy Cross. The fact that Holy Cross is the second oldest school institution of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States (Notre Dame, being the first) makes this school a special place. From the very origins of the congregation from Blessed Basil Moreau, the mission which he deemed for all of his schools has stood the test of time. As we have embraced and fostered that mission through these many years we have transformed the world by producing men of values who have made differences in the lives of those they touched. The sacred mission from our founder is what has set us apart and has made us a special place.
Tell us about your favorite memory from your time serving at Holy Cross School?
I know that this may sound strange but the times right after Katrina were some of my better memories. Although Katrina ravaged our school buildings, it did not ravage our souls. It stimulated in us the courage, strength and resilience to come back stronger. We came together as a community and found strength in the words of Blessed Moreau that he wrote to the early missionary brothers as they faced their own Katrina in the form of yellow fever, cholera, sickness and disease). He wrote that he had, “followed New Orleans in mind and heart and that Holy Cross would become a place of great blessings”.
These words of Blessed Moreau where particularly meaningful to us as we worked to re-build Holy Cross into a place of great blessing. We knew that if we continued to do our work, Father Moreau would send the extra spiritual blessings that we needed to be successful. I witnessed courage, sacrifice and sheer determination on the faces of teachers, parents, students and board members who rolled up their sleeves to help this school flourish again. To some, those were “the worst of times” but ironically those were “the best of times” because of what they brought out in our Holy Cross community.
Tell us about your educational philosophy.
My educational philosophy is one that focuses on the individual and bringing out the best in students. I believe that students have to be challenged in order to grow. They have to experience a bit of discomfort in order to become the best of themselves. Through struggle, there comes learning. Good teachers are those who, first of all, like the kids they teach and enjoy helping their students become all they can be. Over the years, I have seen individuals become great people because of what they have grown into because of the work, encouragement and challenge of a good teacher.
My leadership philosophy is based upon collaborative leadership. I did my dissertation on moral leadership and from that study, I found these three key tenets to be evident: communication, community and creative intelligence. I have strived to practice these tenets in my leadership by openly communicating, involving the school community and being creative in my approach to problems and programs. I have strived to be a collaborative. I have found that there is more strength in the word “We” than in the word “I”.
What are your retirement plans?
I just released my first book, “Coming of Age: A Journey of Growth, Culture and Spirit in Cajun Land.” I have a few more books planned and look forward to writing more when I retire. My current book is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B079P38VXC?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070.