Frater John Murphy (Scroll #948), please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you Frater Rick. I grew up in the 1950’s in Vienna, VA and was one of the first graduating classes of James Madison High School which was founded in 1959 by combining students who were juniors at either McLean High School or Fairfax High School. My brother and I lived with our parents, our mom was a homemaker, and our dad was a Master Sargent in the Marine Corp. I graduated in 1961 as a member of the first graduating class and a founding Warhawk (our mascot).
Why did you choose George Mason College (GMC) and what are your earliest memories?
Being the son of a Marine was a great honor and privilege, but it did come with some financial limitations. George Mason College allowed me to attend college without severe financial constraints. A couple of friends of mine and I decided to attend as we graduated James Madison. I believe George Mason was formed several years before I attended, circa 1957 – as a northern branch of the University of Virginia. Offering liberal arts curriculum, most students went for 2 years before heading to a 4-year University. At the time, the college was in a former elementary school located at Baileys Crossroads in Falls Church, VA.
I believe there were between 100-200 students at the time, and we knew there were discussions to formally organize and build the college in Fairfax, VA. Located near the school was the Baileys Crossroad Firehouse. Students between classes would gather in a large hall located on the second floor of the firehouse as our de facto, “student union.” During the early years at GMC, I worked part-time in a store like a K-Mart (in today’s standards) as well as I was a bagger and later checker for a Safeway grocery store. Thus, my studies were juggled with work, and I went to school part-time.
What are your early memories of legacy group of men that began The Symposium?
As you can imagine, the college being housed in a former elementary school, with our student union located nearby in a firehall, student life was not very active. There were no clubs and certainly no fraternities or sororities. In the Fall of 1963, we traveled to UVA for a weekend. While on campus, a few buddies of mine and I attended a fraternity party. That experience, combined with the nascent student experience at George Mason, was the kernel of the idea that led to the formation of our group.
So, tell me more about The Symposium, and those early days?
Well, shortly after our time at UVA, in November of 1963, President Kennedy was tragically killed in Dallas, TX. For all of us at the college, President Kennedy was the first election we were able to participate in when we turned 18. As you could imagine during that time, the country was stunned, saddened, and grieving. Like most of the country, classes at the college were suspended appropriately, along with nearly every business in our area and across the country. As classes resumed, most of the talk centered on the events that unfolded and what we witnessed attempting to move forward. Hanging out with several buddies, actually in a car one afternoon, the idea of now starting the fraternity, in honor of our president, crystallized.
We didn’t have any idea on how to form the organization, the college didn’t have any support structure to aid our process, but someone found documentation on how to create a fraternity. We used this as our framework. Without any student advisor or guidance, our group of friends decided to honor President Kennedy and the month in which he died by limiting the group to 11 members. We chose the name “The Symposium” given its meaning regarding groups of men getting together to be social. I wrote about this and shared it with the TKE Mu-Omega Alumni Association at The Symposium at George Mason College.
By the spring of 1964 most of us were leaving to attend other 4 year universities, with our two years of undergraduate liberal studies being completed. Most all of the 11 were “aging out” so to speak, thus we decided to create a pledge class of 11 members. We were proud of what we created and wanted to see it flourish as we left for other college experiences.
That’s an awesome summarization of our legacy, Frater John. Where did you end up going to school?
I left George Mason and enrolled at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, VA, attending the business school from 1964 through 1965. In 1966, I took a year off for financial reasons, and returned to Vienna, VA. In 1967, as part of the Vietnam War, I was drafted and after graduating from boot camp and my advanced school, I was stationed for a year at Cam Ranh Bay which is on the southeastern coast of the country approximately 180 miles north of what was referred to at the time as Saigon. I was assigned to the 18th Engineer Brigade which was responsible for construction in support of the war.
After my deployment ended, I returned to ODU and finished my undergraduate degree in business administration in 1969. During the recession of 1970, I began my search for my first job after college starting at Fannie Mae. After a few years, I left Fannie Mae and started my career in the Savings and Loan (S&L) industry as a manager of a loan servicing unit, and then retail banking, ultimately becoming a regional manager of that S&L.
In 1982, our firm was sold to Perpetual Savings Bank, and I became a Regional Vice President. By the mid-80’s with the volatility in the S&L industry, many firms were converted by the Resolution Trust Corporation. At that time, I started my second career working in financial consulting, helping firms with bank lending/mortgage lending. Marrying my bride Terry in the early 1990’s, over the next twenty years I worked for various accounting firms and eventually retired from Deloitte and Touche.
That’s wonderful Frater John, thank you for your service to our country. How did you get reconnected with Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) and our Mu-Omega Chapter at George Mason University (GMU)?
My wife had a long and successful career as a lawyer at the Department of Justice. After her retirement 8 years ago, she began taking classes at GMU. As we discussed her time on campus and how much she was enjoying the academic life, I began to wonder more about The Symposium and whether or not it survived and thrived after nearly 45+ years. Researching on my own, I determined that The Symposium had become TKE. With the chapter being inactive on campus, I had some difficulty in 2018 reaching out.
In November of 2021, reflecting on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s death, I renewed my interest in locating TKE and after finding the Mu-Omega alumni association web page, I contacted the association.
That’s fantastic, thank you for your perseverance to reconnect. Recently, you were initiated as an honorary member of Mu-Omega. What influenced your decision to become a TEKE?
After leaving George Mason College in the early 60’s, especially reflecting on what we established in The Symposium, I was never involved in fraternity life at ODC. My experience, then, was limited. I really enjoyed the fact I was able to share some history with the alumni organization and the undergraduate chapter. Along the way, I’ve enjoyed meeting several alumni. When the offer came, my wife asked what I thought. Ultimately, I thought it to be a great honor to take advantage of it. I’m pleased and delighted to be a member at this stage of my life.
It’s been great visiting with you Frater John. Any final reflections?
I’m excited to learn about the alumni association and its three prong mission. At the very root of the creation of The Symposium was our desire to further the fellowship and bond we had as students at the college. Coming from a background of modest means, the notion the alumni association has built a scholarship fund in honor of one of our Fraters, Gene Barnes, is wonderful. Reflecting on the stages of my career, it’s encouraging to think the association will serve our fraters through professional development opportunities. The association mission to serve our fraters resonates. I’m looking forward to learning more about Tau Kappa Epsilon, and certainly more about our chapter at GMU and my now, my fellow Fraters.
For my wife and I, similarly, we have a devotion and desire to serve others. We support Volunteer Fairfax (Volunteer Solutions) as a means to help our community, especially with food programs/distribution. More broadly, with a family connection we support the non-profit group The Haven, located in the heart of Sarasota, Florida, which offers programs and services for adults and children with disabilities. We enjoy our travel through Europe both on professional tours and river ship cruises. We will have visited a dozen countries and plan more this year and next.
Finally, one of my true loves, is my love to cook. I’m not a Chef, as that’s above my paygrade, but it certainly is an enjoyable experience, just like our time together today, Frater Rick.