Murray retiring after 20 years at LLCC

Theo Kennon III, Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD – Professor Greg Murray has spent 20 of his 27 years as an educator here at LLCC, and at the end of the semester, he will retire.

Great teachers inspired Murray, he said, so he sets his teaching goals high. Although he, at times, faced challenges, ranging from working full time to raising a family with
two small children, he focused on doing what he loved and did not let setbacks stop him. He enjoys the idea of helping people learn to write and to think critically.

“If high schools would prepare students for critical thinking, then when they came to college, college would be a lot easier. Critical thinking is sucking the marrow out of what you are reading,” Murray said.

Born in Galesburg, a city 45 miles northwest of Peoria, Murray was raised in Wataga, a small nearby village in Knox County. The town’s residents were mainly workers from nearby factories. There were about 63 people in his senior class, and it was in high school where Murray was inspired there by his high school history teacher to become an educator.

“She was one of those kinds of teachers who would do anything she could to get you to understand the material,” he said. “She would work as hard as she could to get the
students what they need.”

She wanted her students to go on and do great things in life, Murray said, and he believed the best way to do that was to inspire students the
same way.

However, it did not happen for a good long while.

Murray admits he was not a very good college student when he first went. The fact you need to study and show up for every class hit him, in his words, like a ball-peen hammer over his head.

“My first trip to college, I did not do so well. If you go with the mentality of ‘Well I got A’s and B’s in high school without studying … You will get a sad surprise. That was the surprise I got.” Murray said. Then in 1968, he ended up getting drafted. Deciding to join the Navy instead, he went to Vietnam for four years before getting a second chance at college. As a student, Murray paid more attention in college because now he knew life could be much harder than just studying for exams.

Murray majored in sociology at Carl Sandburg College, a community college in Galesburg, where his professor impressed him with his knowledge and love for the subject. It was something he enjoyed doing, as he likes people and studying how different elements of society fits together, but after he graduated he wanted to do something he loved more, English and literature.

“I didn’t think for the world I would be a composition teacher.” Murray said.

He went to Western Illinois University for his graduate school, where he got his bachelor’s degree. The work he had was often second or third shift. His advice for students trying to find that balance is what he did himself: Cut out time and make it a priority.

Murray currently teaches four English 102 composition courses and a film as literature class.

Murray said he has fun with writing. There is art in it, and once he retires, he will have time to create some art himself. He plans to write a book about the life of his mother.

Murray loves his work, but he said retirement will allow him more time with his family. Whether your vision is about career or family, it’s about how much time you can make a priority and spend on it consistently.

“If you just say, ‘OK, these three hours a day, I have to do my school work.’ If you have a day off, spend it with family and friends, but this block of time is for school work. If you don’t, then you’ll fall behind,” Murray said. “It’s harder to catch up than to stay current.”

This is a strategy he used in his own life. Often before the internet, he took mail-in classes, where he had to do the reading and mail his work by its deadline on his own.

Nowadays students would turn in their homework online instead of via mail. Computers are the basis for most careers, even in small towns. During his lifetime, Murray said he has seen computers go from room-sized behemoths to pocket-size wonders. He makes it known that clear writing remains the foundation
of all communication.

“The basics have to be there. It’s a situation where it has to be a marriage between the basics, the technology and where you want to go. Language, art, math, reading and critical thinking are things you have to have a basis in,” Murray said.

Murray will be 70 in June and plans to rest, get a daily walk, read a stack of books and take in some Netflix.

Theo Kennon III can be reached at [email protected]