The Biggest Celebrity of Marist College: A Talk With President Murray

President Murray is the biggest celebrity of the Marist community. It’s sure to make your day if you get to pass President Murray (or “DJM” as his students fondly refer to him) on your way to class or spot him on your way to the dining hall. It’s hard to even think what Marist would be like without President Dennis J. Murray after 36 years with the college.

After having the chance to sit down with him in his office, it’s obvious why he has been loved being at Marist for so many years. His warm personality and casual exterior made me feel like I was talking to a close friend although many years of experience and knowledge separate the two of us. After telling him a little bit about myself, I got to know the famed Marist celebrity who I had previously never officially met.

What’s your favorite part about Marist?

President Murray answers my question with a pause. He knows all the many, many things going on at the college, so of course he would have a hard time narrowing down his “favorite part” of such an intricate school. DJM answered most specifically that he loves connecting with students, and also the faculty. He explains that he loves that Marist has a great “sense of place” because of the beautiful location of campus. He goes further, saying how the Hudson, or “America’s great river,” is responsible for the campus' community feel because of its beautiful location.

What do you like most seeing on (or around) campus?

Again, my broad question is hard for the president of the school to answer with just one favorite. DJM said he loves seeing students “showcase and develop their talents” during their time at Marist. Whether in the art program, the music programs of band or choir or the Honors program, he loves how he can directly see Marist students growing and thriving. Fulbright Scholarship students, President Murray mentioned specifically, are also another spectacle that draws his attention.

Out of all the things you’ve done here is there anything you would change?

President Murray answered how he has “never been one to reflect” because he doesn’t see the use in second-guessing things you can’t change. He believes in looking to the future and how to make it better instead of looking to the past.

What did you major in and what were your goals while in college?

After studying political science in undergrad, DJM expected to pursue government work or possibly a law degree. He says he tells students to expect that their goals for life while in college should not be permanent because your jobs in life are usually “serendipitous” instead of planned. He said in college he “never expected to be a university president,” but that he had a “fast ride” to his position at Marist.

He worked in a University president’s office early on, learning the ways of the position, and was soon offered the vice president position at a University in California at age 29. From there, he was offered the position of President at Marist. Having never heard of either Marist or Poughkeepsie, New York prior to being offered the job, he now has lived here and served as president for 36 years.

Do you feel like Marist is where you hoped it would be at this point, when you started?

“Yes.” DJM explained to me how Marist has continually exceeded his hopes and goals from when he started. Normally colleges evolve very slowly, requiring tens or hundreds of years to gain a really good reputation. Marist has gained national and international recognition over only the 36 years DJM has been president. During his term, Marist has earned its great reputation for internationalization by having a branch campus in Florence, Italy. He specifically referenced a newly released book in which Marist has now been recognized as being one of the top 50 colleges in the nation.

What’s your proudest accomplishment here?

Unable to pinpoint one specific action or decision that brought him the most pride, DJM is most proud of the overall stature that he has been able to help Marist receive. The combination of good academics, a beautiful campus, internationalization, higher selectivity, impressive faculty and a majority of students receiving jobs or being accepted into graduate programs after college has led to Marist gaining stature over the recent years.

How do you feel about leaving?

Our president explained first how he isn’t exactly “retiring” in the usual sense. He is taking on the role of “President Emeritus” which is a position on the board that allows President Murray to continue to maintain a close role with Marist, but in an “advisory, helpful” position, instead of the position of President. He says that there are of course parts of the job of President that he will miss, but that he decided it was time to go. He believes that good leaders are those who do not overextend their stay, but “go out on top,” to help the college maintain a good reputation. 

Do you have any plans for retirement?

As he said, he will be keeping a relationship with Marist as President Emeritus which will surely keep him busy. DJM said that he’s not one to enjoy playing golf or lying on the beach, and plans to use his newly available free time to write, as he did earlier on in his career, and to come back to Marist as a teacher to help students, presumably in a leadership course.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share, specifically with Marist students?

DJM vocalized his hope that his students really feel a part of the Marist community and family, while studying at Marist, and for the rest of their lives as well. He explained how he really enjoys working with alumni, and wants all alumni to always feel an affinity to Marist and anyone else in the Marist community.