Remember your Roots

dad and mom

George and June Roche, Dad’s Graduation from the University of Colorado

A few weeks ago, I placed a few requests on social media, asking for comments about my parents and their time at Hillsdale College. The thoughtful responses brought back many memories from several generations of students. Growing up at Broadlawn, the students of Hillsdale College were central to my parents’ lives whether through day to day college business, a student in need of additional financial assistance (one of Mom’s many missions), or a student in need of a home-cooked meal or family movie night (usually John Wayne westerns). I loved seeing the students come and go; several of them are friends today. I’m thankful for the example my parents set regarding students’ needs outside the classroom. I think it makes me a more effective educator…

My father and your father were great friends. That friendship was formed with their evolvement with F.E.E. And The Mount Pellerin Society. I met your father briefly in the early 70’s and I could not help but be impressed by his obvious intelligence and boundless energy. Most importantly to me though was was a kind man. It was what drew me to Hillsdale. I met your brother George, who was in my class I believe, and we had some fun together. I also had the honor of introducing your father at a school business function. I was so awed by reading his credentials that I must have looked shocked, but he saved the day with his big warm smile.

~Henry Hagemann

I graduated with your brother and his wife, and worked for the college after graduation. During those years, I had the opportunity to witness your mother in a variety of social and business settings. On each occasion, she conducted herself as a great lady should, with intelligence, integrity, compassion and grace. Hillsdale was lucky to have her.

~Cheryl Lieblang

I had the pleasure of meet George Roche while attending Hillsdale College from 1993-1997. A great guy with a ton of knowledge.

~Tommy Sudduth

I attended Hillsdale from 1975 to 1979. As editor of the Collegian in the fall of 1978, I had a number of dealings with your father, all of which were cordial and even when we disagreed about publishing a story he did not like, they were still very respectful. Your mother was a wonderful woman, always warm and welcoming when I came to the house for an event.

~Benne Hutson

It wasn’t any particular story while I was there. It was after. His power of personality, immense gift of observation was mind blowing. To come back 10 years after graduation and be met with a handshake, by name with no tag, and throw my jersey number in for good measure! Wow, wish I had paid as much attention while I was in school. What he understood was how to make an environment of immense learning without many of us even realizing the absorption we were experiencing. That’s my memory and fondness for George. A name I was required to use when I attempted a meager Mr. Roche at that very meeting.

~Jim Shuster, Class of 1985

It is with great joy that I share my glimpses of June and George Roche while a student, and then an employee, at Hillsdale College from 1976 to 1983. My first memory of seeing June Roche was when I was a transferred-in sophomore in 1976. Mrs. Roche was walking with her husband and President of Hillsdale College, the George Roche, near Central Hall. They appeared to be in deep conversation and thought, walking slowly side by side, listening to each other and speaking with one another with great deliberation. They made a striking couple and that vision of them expressed many of the elements embodied at Hillsdale—tenderness, concern, beauty, listening, discussing, elegance, timeless grace. At that time I did not know who these two were but later discovered their identities. As busy as they both must have been that urgency of day to day life did not show in their demeanor as they walked and talked with each other. After that I saw June many times at Broadmoor as I would walk into town from Waterman Hall. She was often in the company of her youngest, their daughter Maggie. Seeing them together was dear to recall. June gave off the “aroma” of gracious calm that came from living a life consecrated to God, family, school and country. That kind of spiritual beauty cannot be bought, manipulated, falsified or affected. I infrequently saw June when I attended CCA lectures and cultural events on campus. My deepest memory of George was as a student, a senior, who was a few credits short of graduation requirements. I was told by the registrar that I had to go see George to obtain approval for walking across the stage with my class of 1979 in May. Having not really known him while studying at Hillsdale, this mission was daunting. I laid out to him a solid plan to attend summer school in June and July of 1979, finish the few classes I needed to fulfill the requirements of my BA degree, on a promissory note of sorts to follow through on my plan. His side of the conversation was comforting. He said I could walk across the stage with my class and would be handed the leather “holder” of my degree but no degree. That was a perfect solution. It was principled, easy, and only I would know. While this may have been a standard practice at Hillsdale, to me it was a sort of “salvation” which meant everything to me and for which I have remained every grateful. When I began working in the Admissions Office I would see June and George at various recruiting dinners held at Hillsdale, at Homecoming events and always at the seasonal CCA lectures, dinners and cultural events on campus. Their stewardship of Hillsdale College as the President and First Lady was impeccable, thoughtful, firm, compassionate and lovely to behold.

~H. (Kuhn) Bryant, 1976-1979

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. & Mrs. Roche both as a student from 1975- 79 and as an employee of the College from 1979-81.  On one occasion as a student, I was part of a group invited to have dinner at Broadlawn with Jack Kemp, it was impressive to listen to these fine American leaders.  Dr. Roche was always very supportive of our efforts on the football field.  I remember Dr. Roche and then Athletic Director, Jack McAvoy being very close and spending a lot of time together on campus and on the road raising money for the school. As a member of the Development Staff (now Institutional Advancement), I had the opportunity to watch our charismatic former president and his family interact with many supporters of the College.  They always treated me and those I observed with respect and dignity.  Dr. Roche had a presence and like he friend Coach McAvoy was an intimidating figure – together they were a powerful combination.

~Keith Otterbein

Any one who wishes to add thoughts, please share your comments! Thanks for reading!


He Married Mrs. Butterworth…


The end of 2012 has been tough. We witnessed the unthinkable and now have to move on. I thought the best way to start the new year was through the healing power of laughter. As I wrote this, I noticed most of the stories were about my son, George Donovan, so I decided to keep this post all about him. As a mom, I always try to keep things fair, so while writing this, I had a healthy case of “Mom guilt.” However, upon reflection, I did write about Mary Kate’s artistic talents, so don’t worry Patrick, I will find a way to embarrass you through this blog too. 😉 Here are a few stories from the Murphy Family where we laughed together and used the humor to bond.

I have so many funny stories to share about my kids, but ones that stick out are from my son, George. He has always been a big boy, just under 12 lbs at birth (a natural birth, I might add). G always has a positive attitude and hearty belly laugh to accompany life. He also has a healthy appetite. Following the Murphy weekly routine, Sunday pancakes are the norm. One of those many Sunday’s, G’s siblings decided to tease him about his love of pancakes. They teased that he would one day marry Mrs. Butterworth. Not missing a beat, G picked up the syrup container as if he were making a toast and proclaimed, “You may now drink the bride!”

As a young child, George called trailer hitches “hookers” because to his three year old mind, it was logical that you hook things on to them. George also thought it was really special that his dad had two hitches on his work truck. It was a family joke, until one day on a weekend trip up north, we stopped in Baldwin to eat. After we were seated at the table, George proudly smiled and announced to our server, “My dad has two hookers on his car!” After our initial embarrassment, we were able to laugh about the incident.

Finally, I can share what is now a fond memory of our first family camping trip. Our kids were 3, 2, and six weeks old. We had purchased our first camper and wanted to start small and camp close to home. We opted for a beautiful, rustic campground in Yankee Springs. After the challenge of setting up camp with three young children, Chad and I put the kids down for naps and put on some music (via car radio) and shared some wine around the campfire. Oblivious to the noise in the camper for some time, what finally caught our attention was the water leaking out. We ran inside and found George over the bathroom sink, trying to prevent the water from overflowing by filling Dixie cups and stacking/sloshing them on the sink and tub area. With five gallons of water left in the tank, we still managed to make it through the weekend with many trips to the community hand pump.

In our family, uncontrollable fits of laughter are common. Unfortunately, many of these incidents happen at the table and accompany projectile kernels of corn or Vitamin D milk. However, despite the occasional mess, belly aches, or laughter to the point of tears or other bodily exits, humor is what makes the Murphy home worthwhile.

Dead Highlanders, Family Traditions, and the Perfect Playlist

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~A Scottish Prayer

One of the reasons why fall is my favorite season is because of the family traditions associated with Halloween. I look forward to harvesting pumpkins from the garden, the pleasant feeling of purchasing a plant that will die from cold weather and not from my lack of gardening skills (hardy mums), the creative costumes, and my two personal favorites, the unique music and decorating.
The decoration that holds the most significance for me is my grim reaper decanter and skull shot glasses, which belonged to Grandad (George Roche Jr.). Learning the history of the piece gave it even more significance, upon discovery that the set originated from pre-militarized Japan. While I don’t particularly enjoy drinking shots, many friends and family love to stop by on Halloween and drink a toast from the set.

I also love to dress up and watch my family embrace their creativity (or lack thereof). My favorites are the homemade varieties. As a preteen, I remember my father coming down the front staircase at Broadlawn in an outfit that was thrown together in less than ten minutes, a bathrobe, wild white wig, and beard and voila, insta-Gandalf. Though I have to admit as a preteen, the first word that came to mind was YUCK!
Another fond memory occurred ten years ago at our family Halloween with my sister and her husband, Muriel and Jeromey. Jer built a pirate ship in the yard for people to sit on while handing out candy. The entire family dressed up with a nautical theme. Muriel pulled off the perfect mermaid and sat patiently on the homemade ship for the entire evening handing out candy (since she was unable to walk in her costume). My frugal hubby packed up all his fly-fishing equipment and painted his face white with blood red streaks, going as a dead fisherman.

Looking forward to this year’s celebration, we host an annual open house for friends and family out trick-or-treating. Chad makes a batch of homemade sauerkraut to accompany hot dogs, cider, and any treats our friends and family bring (usually some of the tastiest homemade fare 🙂 This year’s costumes are no exception! I bought the boys and Chad kilts this summer, so George is dressing as a dead highlander and his good friend, who recently returned from a year with family in Germany, is wearing lederhosen and dressing as a dead German. Chad even wired speakers on the porch, so we can enjoy our unique playlists of the evening.

The special playlists of the holiday are favorites. I have both a classical and rock and roll Halloween mix.

Fright Night Classical Playlist (There are several Halloween themed CDs with many of these songs.):

Danse Macabre
A Night on the Bare Mountain
In the Hall of the Mountain King
Marche Funebre
Scherzo (from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana)
The Ride of the Valkyries
The Old Castle

Rock-n-Roll Playlist:

I Put a Spell on You (CCR)
Werewolves of London (Zevon)
Welcome to my Nightmare (Cooper)
Ghostbusters (Parker)
Thriller (Jackson)
Black Magic Woman (Santana)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow)
Desperation Samba (Buffett)
People are Strange (Doors)
Addams Groove (MC Hammer)
Bye & Bye/Saints (Stafford and White)

The last song is not really part of the rock-n-roll genre, but it should be included in the Halloween repertoire. “Bye & Bye/Saints” is a piece that includes a personal favorite of mine, “When the Saints go Marching in.” While there are aspects of Halloween that I do not enjoy, the larger part of the holiday is time with family and time for family traditions. It’s a time for children to use their creativity and create a costume. It’s a time to have fun being something or someone else. We make lasting memories with these holidays. We praise the Lord for the blessings of the harvest, the crisp weather, the comfort food shared with family and friends. In my own church, Halloween represents All Hallows Eve, to be followed by All Saints Day, and then All Souls Day. I like to take this time to remember those who have gone before us in the past year, remember the memories we shared, and drink a toast in their honor.

I’m trying to find time to blog every month about three important things in my life: Clan, Music, and Writing. If you would like to read each post, you can follow my blog and receive an e-mail with each new post. I also appreciate comments and constructive criticism as I am always looking to improve. Thanks!