Terence J. Murphy: Catholic University: Vision and Opportunities

(Collegeville: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 2001)
ISBN: 0-8146-5101-1

Msgr. Terence Murphy served as President of the University of Saint Thomas (MN) for twenty-five years and built it from a single-sex college into a multi-campus university with strong emphasis on its Catholic identity. In this book, Murphy shares some of his priorities and successes in terms of mission and leadership. Among mission-and-identity related books, this book is most distinguished by the hybrid mission/leadership quality it adapts. Half of the book is focused on more traditional questions of Catholic identity, while the rest develops his ideas on leadership and use of other leadership theorists' models.

The "Catholic University" Msgr. Murphy has in mind is the University of Saint Thomas, and he is forthright about this, suggesting it as one model and moving forward from the ground he knows best.

Murphy's insistence -- and demonstration -- that focus on the mission can foster entrepreneurship, rather than merely serve as a braking mechanism, is perhaps the best contribution of the book. Persons who want to know more about the growth and success of Saint Thomas will also find it interesting, particularly in terms of how they responded to Catholic mission issues across the curriculum. Murphy's answer for Saint Thomas was to try to have departments hire one person well-versed in his or her own field and equally knowledgeable of some related aspect of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
The leadership discussion, which covers half the book, is helpful in a limited fashion, insofar as it describes in general terms the values, priorities, and overall management concepts put in place during Murphy's tenure. Still, it is not a case study of real dilemmas and difficulties, of tough decisions and problems. I kept thinking that there was undoubtedly more complexity to the decisions and challenges the college faced as it grew, or some leadership failures that budding administrators might learn from. As a book on leadership, it fits the genre of inspirational books that focus only on possibility and success.

The book is well-written, clear, and especially suited for persons who are new to some of the issues of Catholic mission. New trustees may find it most helpful. — Thomas M. Landy