In Memoriam: Frederick J. Murphy, Professor of Religious Studies

September 13th, 2011 by Ellen Ryder

Image by John Buckingham

Professor Frederick J. (Rick) Murphy, a faculty member in the religious studies department at Holy Cross since 1983, passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 13, after an illness.

An internationally renowned scholar and prolific author who also loved the classroom and excelled as a teacher, Professor Murphy was the recipient of the College’s 2001 Distinguished Teacher of the Year award. He was appointed the first Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies in 2007, and subsequently delivered a well-received reunion presentation to the members of that class.

In the course of more than 25 years, Professor Murphy served on virtually every significant committee at the College, chairing many of them. His colleagues particularly entrusted to him the task of leading the searches for two endowed chairs and two deans of the College.

His seven books and many articles include “The Religious World of Jesus: An Introduction to Second Temple Palestinian Judaism,” which received the Alpha Sigma Nu book award in 1991; “Early Judaism: The Exile to the Time of Jesus” (2005), and “Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its Worlds,” which is scheduled to be published in July 2012.

Professor Murphy received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He also studied at the Weston School of Theology and the University of London, where he earned a second bachelor’s degree.

Funeral services will be held on Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. at Christ the King Church in Worcester.

Members of the Holy Cross community are invited to attend a memorial mass on Sept. 20 at 12:05 p.m. in the Mary Chapel (lower level of St. Joseph Chapel).

A full obituary will appear in the winter issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

If you have a special memory or story about Professor Murphy, please feel free to share it by leaving a comment below or emailing hcmag@holycross.edu. Remembrances may appear in the magazine or in an online tribute.

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Comments (5)
  1. Brian Scott says:

    Professor Murphy was the best teacher I ever had. He always had time for his students, he loved his work, and he made you think. He will be terribly missed.

  2. Meaghan '01 says:

    I had Prof Murphy for just one class, “Jesus and his Pals”, which was honestly one of the best I took all 4 years. What an amazing teacher. I feel so sad for those students who will miss out, but also feel so fortunate I was able to experience his course. Sending thoughts and prayers to his friends and family.

  3. Julissa '06 says:

    I am saddened to hear of the recent passing of Prof. Murphy. I met Prof. Murphy during my first year at HC since I opted for the Religion FYP program. An amazing professor with an infinite knowledge, wisdom, and such a wonderful sense of humor. May his family find the comfort and strength they need at this time. Prof. Murphy loved his family and he even welcomed us into his home for a picnic one day :-) Always willing to challenge his students and expand their knowledge of different cultures. He will be greatly missed and always remembered. RIP.

  4. James '01 says:

    One of my favorites at the Cross. Only had him for one class, Jesus and His Contemporaries, but affectionately known as “Jesus and Pals.” His affinity for the material was infectious. Very sad to hear of his passing, but extremely happy to have had the opportunity to be taught by him.

  5. Amanda '08 says:

    A great teacher, a great person, and a great role model. He taught me to do what you like to do, and to think critically. He will be missed by all at the college, and by all that were lucky enough to know him.

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