Mr. Murphy, principal at LRHS from 1993- 2004, dies

On March 19, former LRHS principal Richard J. Murphy died after a lengthy bout with cancer. He was 62.

Murphy worked in the Wake County Public School System for 36 years — including holding the position of principal at East Wake and Sanderson High — and is most remembered by the Leesville community for his leading role in establishing Leesville Road High School in 1993. LRHS, at its opening, was the first new high school constructed in Wake County since 1978.

“I will never forget our tour of Leesville, in hardhats, when the gym floor was still dirt. He generated such energy and enthusiasm for what Leesville could become that day,” said Ann Hamilton, a staff member who began working at LRHS in its first year. “What a privilege it was to be part of that vision.”

Having literally built the school as it stands today, all who knew Murphy can say with certainty that his mark was left on the community in the physical manifestation of the LRHS building as well as the memory of an upstart philosophy that defines our school to this day.

“I began my first year of teaching here at Leesville under Mr. Murphy’s leadership,” said Angie Scioli, a Leesville social studies teacher.  “His excitement and vision for opening a new school was infectious… the educational community has lost a brilliant mind and a great visionary, but [I am] so grateful that my career was built on and will always be guided by his leadership.”

Murphy was accomplished outside of WCPSS also, having played soccer for Campbell University at the All-American level.

But among all the highlights of Murphy’s tragically truncated life, the largest impact was almost indisputably the opening of LRHS, which remains as the cornerstone of the community as we see it today, as well as being routinely one of Wake County’s highest-performing schools. The News & Observer obituary termed this “a lifelong dream” of his.

“He was a great community leader,” said Carly Jones, Class of 2004. Jones was Leesville’s student body president. “I remember his distinct voice on the announcements every day. Although he was somewhat private, you could tell that he cared about education and the Leesville community… he made it his responsibility to know everyone and keep the school well-organized.”

Richard J. Murphy will be remembered here primarily as our first principal and the key component in laying the groundwork for the building blocks of the Leesville we know and love. Only some of the current staff of LRHS remember the days the school operated under his leadership, but all of them appreciate and respect what Murphy brought to Leesville as a leader and a visionary. He will be missed, even by those who never had the benefit of his direct tutelage.

The Visitation: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
7p-9p at Brown Wynne Funeral Home in Cary, NC

Funeral Service: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
3p First United Methodist Church in Cary, NC

The Mycenaean will run a longer article about Mr. Murphy’s impact on Leesville later this week.

Here are links to articles/blogs from News and Observer.

For information and photos from Browne-Wynne Funeral Home:

Please use the comment section below, if you wish, for memories of Mr. Murphy.  (Note, these comments are monitored and might take 24 hours to be posted.)


  1. I had Mr. Murphy as a principal at Sanderson High School from 1986-1990 and not only did my mom and dad think very highly of him, but the students did too. Once I got to college, I appreciate the superb education I had gotten at Sanderson compared to other freshman who struggled. He was a friendly principal but not to be toyed with. Students did not toy with him. And all teachers in every field was excellent because he was so selective. Very sad that such a handsome and robust looking man died too young.

  2. Kale and Richard Murphy were a credit to their parents yesterday.They performed superbly, exactly as RJM would have scripted it.It still seems incredulous that a man with such a presence and a zest for life is gone.Last night before our soccer game I told our girls the old Murphyism-with quite a hint of the old Irish in it-‘Love what you do and you will do it well’.The team played flawlessly for their school.At halftime the heavens opened and a cool, steady rain poured on us from the heavens.I just wonder if the Boss was watching-hope so,healthy and smiling and hoisting a soda in toast.That one was for you, Mr.Murphy.We are the Pride.We are Leesville.Thanks.You will not be forgotten.

  3. I will never forget the day in August 1998 when I stood before a faculty that told me to “be good, or be gone.” Honestly, it was unnerving. However, Mr. Murphy was an amazing leader, and, as the years passed, and I became more familiar with his “Murphyisms,” I realized that I was holding myself to his high standards. He expected nothing but excellence from his students, teachers, and staff and lead us by his example. I truly believe that I am the teacher I am today because of his guidance. I have been thinking about him a lot these past few days and realize that I will carry what I learned from him through the remainder of my career. I am lucky and proud to have worked for him.

  4. Mr. Murphy’s presence at Leesville Road High School will always remain. His visions for the students and faculty/staff focused on quality education for all. Those of us who teach/work at LRHS are determined to preserve that focus and will work hard to pass it on for generations to come. I will remember him as a respectful, fair, encouraging, supportive principal, whose demeanor, attitude, and leadership resulted in strong mutual respect. To honor Mr. Murphy, we will always remember him with PRIDE!

  5. I was hired by Mr. Murphy in 2001 as the first Intervention Coordinator and NovaNET Site Director at Leesville Road High School. I was quite impressed with his distinguished looks and professional demeanor. In my interview with him, he seemed to dwell on the diversity of my background and smiled as he commented about the “Best Dressed Teacher” honor I had received at my previous school. I was quietly ecstatic when he leaned forward and said to his V.P. who had recommended me, “I like her; let’s hire her.”

    I found Mr. Murphy to be a philisophical educator whose goal was to gleen the very best from his staff. However, he could be very intimidating, to say the least. How could anyone forget his favorite saying to his staff at faculty meetings: “Be good or be gone!” That really stuck with me.

    I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with such a distinguished professional as Richar Murphy. His impact on the Leesville community was felt far beyond his tenure here. I’m sure he will be missed in the educational circles throughout Wake County.

  6. Mr. Murphy was a very honorable man and an excellent role model. He held high expectations for himself and the students at Leesville Road High School. Failure was never an option. If any student ever needed anything, Mr. Murphy’s door was open.

    I recall one time that I needed to go in and speak to him about student council. I was upset about something and on a tangent. When I stopped talking he said, “Are you finished Ms. Kramer?” I replied yes. And he said, “I’m going to have you start over and I want you to not use the word ‘like’. Nobody in life is going to take you seriously if you use that word in conversation.” I’m careful to this day when I use that word in conversation.

    Rebecca Kramer
    LRHS Class of 2003

  7. Mr. Murphy was a great principal and great leader. He expected the nothing but best out of himself and everyone around him, and that attitude was contagious. It was a privilege to work for him and learn from his example.
    If every school could have a man like him at the helm, education in America would be in a lot better shape.

  8. Mr. Murphy was the kind of man no one ever forgets. His presence inspired respect and a desire to be at your best. When I first came to Leesville Road High School, I was just happy to get out of the middle school environment. Then I started to realize what I was becoming a part of. Mr. Murphy pushed his entire faculty to make Leesville Road High School the best high school in Wake County, if not the state. He wanted what was best for the students and the faculty. He never shyed away from taking a stand, and he always had what was best for Leesvile Road High School in mind. He is already sorely missed.

  9. Mr. Murphy had a tough job. He had to knit pieces of several different high schools together in those early years of LHS. I was in the second class to graduate after four full years there. I remember playing home football games at Millbrook, not exactly textbook for building school spirit. Somehow, we perservered and one day, my freshman year, we got to play a home game “at home.” I’ll never forget Mr. Murphy announcing a student had passed away or when he told us at graduation practice that none of us had better be responsible for him having to place a rose on a chair at graduation.

    I remember at the end of my senior year there was an incident regarding plagiarism with a publication I worked with as an editor. I was mortified to think I would be associated with this breach which, for the editorial staff, was a total accident. I immediately went to Mr. Murphy to let him know I in no way endorsed what had happened and that I and the other editors were unaware the submission was reprinted under false pretenses. Mr. Murphy thanked me and said something to me I’ll never forget, “Ms. Oeser, you’ve shown a lot of strength of character and strong morals. I appreciate you coming directly to me.” At eighteen it was a pretty heady thing to be told I had strength of character and strong morals. I can only hope to honor Mr. Murphy’s legacy by teaching those morals to my own three children.

  10. I began my first year of teaching here at Leesville under Mr. Murphy’s leadership. His excitement and vision for opening a new school was infectious. I was young and naive, but I had the distinct feeling that if we would just follow our leader, we would achieve great things for our students and our community. Mr. Murphy inspired, challenged, and at times intimidated me, but I always knew he had my best interests at heart. Eighteen years later, several of his sayings guide my actions on a daily basis. A favorite is “No one ever rose to low expectations.” That precept was the foundation on which the school was built. He was the consummate professional and expected the same of us. We, in turn, expected the best from our students. It was truly an institution built on an assumption of mutual respect. Upon hearing of Mr. Murphy’s death, I felt a profound sense of sadness and gratitude – sad that the educational community has lost a brilliant mind and a great visionary, but so grateful that my career was built on and will always be guided by his leadership. It is now up to us, those he inspired, to carry forth his vision. Indeed, “be good, or be gone” now carries a greater sense of urgency and draws upon a deeper well of determination.

  11. In 1996, I was hired by Mr. Murphy, to work in the attendance office, at LRHS. During my interview, I learned that we were both from the same hometown, East Meadow, New York.
    Mr. Murphy, with his strong sense of leadership, was very kind, fair and supportive to all of his students and staff members. He was a man of great integrity and moral priciples.
    Mr Murphy leaves behind a legacy in education and will be sadly missed by all that knew him.
    My prayers and thoughts are with his wife, two sons and family.
    Pat Fitzgerald

  12. I worked with Mr. Murphy at the main office when he was High School Senior Director for the WCPSS Curriculum and Instruction. He always seemed a wonderful mix of playful and professional. I was both accepted and challenged by him. He was a bright spot to be found in the building and I always enjoyed our encounters.

  13. Mr. Murphy gave me the greatest opportunity of my professional life by hiring me at LRHS the first year the school opened. I am forever grateful to him for that. He was a great principal, leader and wanted Leesville Road High to be the absolute best in every area. He had high expectations for all of the staff, students and of himself. He will be missed.

  14. Mr. Murphy established the culture at Leesville. His mark is still woven into the fabric of our school. I have great admiration and respect for Mr. Murphy, and I’m thankful to him for giving me my first shot at teaching.

  15. Not only did Mr. Murphy lay the foundation for a top-ranked school, the growth and successes that this institution still experiences are largely based on his work, his integrity, his philosophy. There were times when I did not understand his choices and times when he and I disagreed, but always, always, he was a man of integrity. He epitomizes John Donne’s statement that “No man is an island.” We are all connected via Leesville Road High School. Here we are seven years after he left LRHS and his work lives on through the faculty, the student body, the Leesville community.

  16. Mr. Murphy was a principal to me as a student and a teacher. He was a fair administrator and a leader I greatly respected as a student. He also gave me my start in education, by hiring me for a teaching position here. It was great to have him as my principal again. He was motivating and respectul. During my first year of teaching, I’ll never forget him serving my lunch duty with me, just to catch up and make sure things were going alright. My experience here at Leesville would not have been the same without him.

  17. Mr. Murphy was not only someone I was lucky to work with, but someone I was lucky to grow up knowing. He was fair, firm, understanding, hard working…a great principal. I remember him looking at all of us the very first teacher workday this building ever had and telling us to “be good or be gone.” As a new teacher fresh out of school, I was a bit rattled. I am very honored to say that I am still here 18 years later. He loved this school and the people in it, students and staff. He loved life and his family. He already is missed.

  18. Mr. Murphy was a man of integrity. He had a vision and purpose for Leesville and made sure you shared the same vision. He was a more then a principal he was a man of principle. I thank him for giving me my start in education.

  19. Mr. Murphy was not only a great leader, but one of the best principals I have ever worked with. He was fair and very supportive to both the teachers and the students. He expected only the best in his staff and the staff worked hard to meet his expectations. He will be greatly missed.

  20. Richard Murphy was a man who led by example. Never settling for mediocrity, he held himself to the same high standards he had for those who worked with him and for him. He inspired us to strive to be the best, to be at the “top of our game”. He took tremendous pride in building this school, literally, from the ground up. I will never forget our tour of Leesville,in hardhats, when the gym floor was still dirt. He generated such energy and enthusiasm for what Leesville could become that day. What a privelege it was to be part of that vision. Even when demanding the very best from each of us he also reminded us to put our families first and to take care of ourselves. He cared about us as people, not just as educators. He was a role model, a mentor and a friend.


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