By Devin Rose
Despite her retirement from Dominican University a few years ago, Sr. Jean Murray is still very involved in the school.
The former 13-year president and French professor can be found in her Lewis Hall office almost every day. If another professor needs to go out of town to present a paper, she fills in. She attends student performances and faculty lectures. And she still accompanies students to France every summer with the immersion program that she used to direct.
But during those trips, says Murray, who turned 85 this year, she no longer climbs the mountains.
In a ceremony Thursday, Dominican will rename Centennial Hall, a residence hall that opened in 2003, to honor Sr. Jean Murray in recognition of her many contributions to the university. The event will also mark her 85th birthday and 60th jubilee, the anniversary of joining the Sinsinawa Dominican community.
The event also celebrates an anonymous $1 million donation, according to a statement from the school.
Murray, a River Forest native who graduated from Trinity High School, said she found out about the renaming at a faculty recognition dinner in the spring. She said she was "completely surprised and quite overwhelmed" when she heard, but is proud to join the founding women whose names are on other residence halls.
Before she entered the convent, Murray graduated from Rosary College — now Dominican University — and worked for a year in Chicago. After a two-year training program to join the order, she went to Fribourg, Switzerland for five years to get her Ph.D. through the school's study abroad program.
Murray joined the faculty at Rosary in the fall of 1961.
The upheaval and changes that the country saw during the 1960s was not hidden from students at Dominican, Murray said. During those years, she worked with faculty and students on the idea of concentrated study in one field for a semester. She was also part of a bachelor's and master's combined program for French, Spanish and English that included team teaching in small seminars.
The fact that there were not as many opportunities open to women may have been part of the motivation to enter religious life, Murray said. Other women left as jobs opened up to them, or they decided they wanted to marry and have families.
Murray began serving as the director of Rosary's international program in Fribourg in the 1970s. She served as president from 1981 to 1994.
Current President Donna Carroll said Murray was always very supportive in her transition into the role. She called Murray a "very poised, articulate woman with a soft style but a strong presence."
In 1996, Murray became the head of the immersion program in Fanjeaux, France. The program brings together students and faculty from about 15 Dominican schools around the country. For two weeks, they study and discuss the founding of the order and go on excursions together.
Murray said she's been blessed with good health so far, and will continue to go on the trip as long as she can.
The renaming ceremony will be held Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. in front of Power Hall.
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