For some at Cedarville, it’s hard to imagine staying at the university for seven years to complete the Doctor of Pharmacy program. But Murray Murdoch, senior professor of history, has dedicated 50 years of his life to teaching and serving students at Cedarville.
Murdoch said his family has supported him and encouraged him throughout his lengthy career.
He and his wife Ruth have enjoyed 57 years of marriage and have two sons, Jim and Mark, who attended Cedarville. The couple also has four grandchildren.
Following God’s lead
Murdoch was raised in a pastor’s home and received his first education from Baptist Bible Seminary. He completed three years of general education and two years of theology studies, graduating with a bachelor’s of theology. He said this program was similar to Cedarville’s Master of Divinity program and served to prepare him for ministry.
Murdoch then studied at Northwestern University in Illinois, pursuing first a master’s degree in American history and then a Ph.D. in the same.
Because of his upbringing, Murdoch had envisioned himself becoming a pastor, but when he left seminary, he struggled with God about his career path. He said certain events and changes within the local church had made him uncomfortable with taking on the position of pastor.
Although Murdoch had long assumed that following God’s will for his life would take him into the pastorate, God compelled him to go into Christian education, he said.
“Christian education really became a calling before I got out of seminary,” Murdoch said.
Because he had struggled with the church’s position on race and segregation, Murdoch became interested in the study of worldviews. He said he felt God calling him to teach worldview to a larger audience.
To accomplish this, he looked for a Christian college and accepted when Cedarville offered him a position.
More than a professor
Although students at Cedarville may know Murdoch better for his history and sociology classes, Murdoch has been heavily involved in a variety of extracurricular activities during his years at Cedarville.
He held the position of head coach of Cedarville’s men’s tennis team for 29 years, and he restarted the organization Alpha Chi, previously a literary organization, as a men’s service org and Cedarville’s first service org.
Murdoch said he believes initiation hazing is unnecessary, so to become a member of Alpha Chi, students were required to serve others in ways such as cleaning lawns.Alpha Chi also organized all-school banquets held in the gym, which at the time was located in the Tyler Digital Communication Center.
The first Red Cross unit on Cedarville’s campus was organized by Alpha Chi, as was the first Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team.
Murdoch said the EMS team began as an all-male group, but when women showed interest in being trained as well, Murdoch handed the training over to Cedarville’s nurse.
Murdoch said Alpha Chi’s primary goal was service that represented the Christian worldview. The two overarching principles for joining the org, Murdoch said, were that the org was not exclusive and that members must be willing to serve.
One of Murdoch’s fondest memories of his time with Alpha Chi is from an allschool banquet. After the banquet was over, a paraplegic Alpha Chi member wanted to help clean up, so another member pushed the wheelchair while the paraplegic swept the floor.
“To me that’s what an organization is all about: an opportunity to help one another, to build into one another’s lives, to encourage one another, and to make everyone feel special,” Murdoch said.
Then a student, now a colleague
Thomas Mach, professor of history at Cedarville and chair of the department of history and government, first knew Murdoch as an advisor, then as a colleague.
Mach attended Cedarville for his undergraduate studies. He changed his major to history during his sophomore year and got to know Murdoch through the advisor-advisee relationship.
Mach said after that change of major, he realized graduate school was necessary for his career but doubted if he was ready for such a challenge.
Mach said Murdoch faithfully talked to him about this decision, evaluated his work and encouraged him to pursue grad school.
“I wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t encouraged me to pursue it,” Mach said. “There’s no question in my mind.”
After graduating from Cedarville, Mach pursued graduate school, receiving his doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Akron. He said he kept in touch with Murdoch during this time.
Mach went on to teach history and government courses at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University for six years. But when an opportunity opened to work at Cedarville, Mach applied, and Murdoch – chair of the department of history and government at the time – hired him.
Mach said Murdoch has mentored him both as a student and as a professor.
Mach said he still goes to Murdoch for advice because Murdoch is always willing to talk about, think through, and pray about issues.
A big part of the reason why I wanted to teach in college was because of the influence of people like him in my life.
Mach said Murdoch integrates biblical principles into the lives and decisions of other faculty members at Cedarville. Murdoch leads a series of sessions for new faculty on integrating biblical truths into their material.
Mach said he remembers a pivotal time in Cedarville’s growth and development as a university, during which Murdoch pointed all faculty members back to their foundation in the Bible.
At this time, Murdoch proposed a resolution to the faculty that reaffirmed their commitment to Scripture as both inspired and inerrant, and the resolution was unanimously agreed upon by the faculty. Mach said he believes Murdoch didn’t let the faculty forget about what was most important, and Murdoch was able to influence them in this way because of the respect he had earned.
Without a doubt, Murdoch said, his favorite part of working at Cedarville is his work with Cedarville students. And he has kept up with the lives of his former students as well, some of whom are faculty at Cedarville, some out in the workplace, and some even retired.
“I continue to take great joy in seeing the successes of former students,” Murdoch said. “I have no greater joy than that.”
He said he enjoys experiencing the youth, energy, desire for learning and inquisitiveness of some students.
Although he is no longer an adviser for Cedarville students, Murdoch said he takes great interest in mentoring and assisting students in their studies and careers. He engages in both personal counseling, relational counseling, and helping students through difficulties.
“The whole process of being a mentor is really an incredible privilege,” Murdoch said.
Mach said Murdoch is always willing to talk to a student, no matter how full his schedule. He compares this to the way Murdoch made time for him as his adviser.
“His mentality is the same: if a student shows up at his door, he’s going to take the time to talk to them,” Mach said. “That’s his number one priority.”
Seeking God through 50 years of change
Murdoch said he has witnessed a number of changes throughout his 50 years at Cedarville.
He said the faculty has developed and grown tremendously, in both its size and views on civil rights, diversity and race.
“The great value of diversity is that as we learn to know people of ethnic backgrounds and increase our knowledge of one another, we begin to realize anew … that we are sinners saved by grace and together we can serve the Lord,” Murdoch said. “God says we are one in Christ. That oneness is what we trumpet now as a university, and that oneness was a bit of a struggle when I first got here.”
Despite the numerous changes, developments and challenges that have interspersed his career, Murdoch said it’s important to persevere through such hardships.
The key thing is, first know yourself, and second, know what God wants of your life. And then, seek to do God’s will.
He said he encourages students to be open to change from God, because not everyone will spend 50 years in one career as he has done. Murdoch said he knows firsthand the importance of allowing God to take the lead.
“Be very sensitive to the direction of God and don’t get in God’s way,” he said. “Let God lead you.”
Kjersti Fry is a sophomore pharmacy major and campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys playing piano and ultimate Frisbee and spending time with friends and family.