Weatherford Democrat

Columns

August 8, 2011

Versatility redefined

WEATHERFORD — He was, by any measure, the most versatile student whose path I crossed during a 40-year career in higher education.

Upon completing high school in Toronto, he was off on his bike to “seek his fortune.” This sounds like a nursery rhyme beginning; for Dan Murray, though, it was the real deal. First, he flew to Vancouver, the starting point of his 3,400-mile biking adventure that ended in Texas 36 days later. (The only “break” was a stop in San Francisco to run in the marathon.)

He was a freshman at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, for the 1991 spring semester. Like most other first-year students, he was unsure of his academic path. Dan was certain, though, that while at the undergraduate fountain, he would take on collegiate experiences in big gulps. My family and I — as well as colleagues and his fellow students —  quickly realized that he didn’t march to drummer beats. A sharper picture would show him strapped to a laser beam — maybe multiple beams — hanging on for the ride.

This is not to say I always understood his judgment. Sometimes when I heard “Can-you-believe-what-Dan-did” stories, I cringed, thankful he survived. I’ll cite just a couple.

One Thanksgiving, he headed for Sacramento on a motorcycle one would expect to buy for a three-digit figure at Sanford and Son’s place. Never mind it was sleeting, with the temperature in the teens. He fell asleep near Las Cruces, struck a road sign, sustained a deep gash on a big toe and knocked a foot peg off the ‘cycle. He bought a needle, thread and alcohol, sewed up the toe and proceeded to Sacramento.

I also would have recommended that he leave it to others for challenges of a country road’s “thrill hill.” It was near the campus, and its 75-foot drop on a thousand-foot descent lured students for assorted races. Dan, though, was the first to make the descent on roller blades, sometimes at speeds exceeding 50 mph. Clad in leather clothing, he came to sudden stops by falling down before smacking into a foreboding cable-topped fence.

The list of accomplishments is far longer than his “freshman follies,” some in which he was engaged for all four years. A graduate of the university’s prestigious Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom, Dan’s interests were many and varied.

He was a member of three honor societies, played trumpet in the marching and concert bands and appeared in a college drama. A cheerleader all four years, he was a three-time All-American and “top gun stunter.” As head cheerleader for two years, he led the school’s first-ever team in national competition.

He also was a member of HPU’s championship track teams in 1993-94, running in the 800-meter, 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter events. In ’94, the conference track meet was held in Abilene, where he was to take the MCAT exam on the same day. I urged him to forego the 5,000-meter race that day. He ran the race in the a.m., then sat for the MCAT in the afternoon. And he did well in both.

He won numerous academic honors, and later was the alumni association’s “outstanding young graduate” during 2004 homecoming activities.

In 1995, he was off to medical school at Texas A&M University. In an initial class, his studies included a textbook written by his father, Dr. Robert Murray, a longtime member of the faculty at the University of Toronto Medical School. Dan received his M.D. diploma in 1999, before completing his residency in family medicine in 2002. Specialty honors included his being named chief resident and “resident of the year.”

Next were duties as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. Yet another degree was forthcoming. He received the Master of Public Health degree as part of the residency in Aerospace Medicine from UTMB-Galveston. Awards continued to multiply.

A few weeks ago, he was one of eight officers graduating from the residency in Aerospace Medicine. At the San Antonio ceremony, my wife and I “teared up,” noting how Dan has continued to endear himself to others. He was host for the commencement speaker, Lt. Gen. Bruce Green, Surgeon General of the Air Force. It was a weepy occasion for everyone, this being the final event for the military facility that provided medical training for almost an entire century.

Now, Lt. Col./Dr. Murray — or just “Dan, the guy who conquered ‘thrill hill’” — is Chief of Aerospace medicine at Vandenberg AFB in California. When astronauts come back into play, his name is on the candidacy list. Any parents would be proud to call him “son.”

We salute him, his wife, the former Melissa Wertz, and their live wire sons, Kaid and Ian, who, at ages 4 and 2, are “chips off the old block.”

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

1
Text Only
Columns
  • The triumph of tarp

    One of our favorite political stories took place during Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964. A friend was standing outside a Goldwater rally when a woman burst from the room, tears streaming down her face.

    March 4, 2014

  • Yes, we want it; no, we don’t?

    Maybe our media will finally start filtering the noise. 

    March 4, 2014

  • The good news you likely haven't heard

    Do you like surprises? I have two surprises for you: At least 19 states already in 2014, nearly half, are posting budget surpluses. Yes, surpluses. The other surprise: Since Obama took office, the national deficit has been reduced by one-half. 

    February 11, 2014

  • The hand over the lens

    The top Super Bowl highlight was not Peyton Manning struggling or Renee Fleming singing or even that adorable puppy nuzzling a horse in the Budweiser commercial. It was Bill O’Reilly grilling Barack Obama.

    February 11, 2014

  • U.S. mayors forced to innovate

    I recently came across more proof that lawmakers blocking progress are weakening the institution of Congress: 

    Mayors from across the nation met in Washington, D.C., for three days last week to discuss a host of issues and possible solutions against a backdrop of congressional inaction. This came as President Obama stated his plans to use “a pen and a phone” to “make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need.” And further, voters are recognizing that the problem in Congress starts at the state level -- and many hope their legislatures will do something about it. 

    January 28, 2014

  • The Village Idiot — Class, but not least

    For Steve’s birthday, it was decided that no one could give him a gift that cost over a dollar. Not that we don’t like Steve, or that he isn’t worth more than a dollar, or that we’re extremely cheap (well, it could be that). It’s just that as grown-ups, who needs more stuff?

    November 29, 2013

  • Black Friday on Thanksgiving?

    Thanksgiving is a time set apart to thank God for all His blessings. It now appears that stores are trying to get a jump on Christmas shopping by beginning “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving Day! Our culture continues to push a secular agenda on all of us. Now the press of shopping is crowding out a time of personal reflection on the goodness of God.

    November 28, 2013

  • BYRON YORK: Obama, Dems kept mum about health plan

    The journalist Jonathan Cohn, an ardent supporter of Obamacare, recently wrote in The New Republic that problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act should be “an opportunity to have a serious conversation about the law’s trade-offs — the one that should have happened a while ago.”

    November 26, 2013

  • DONNA BRAZILE: A gift of practical idealism

    I was only 3 when President John F. Kennedy died, but I’ll never forget what happened that day as my grandmother and others cried. You see, we were Catholics living down in the then-segregated Deep South. Kennedy was our hope for a better tomorrow.

    November 26, 2013

  • The way we were

    I can hear in my mind’s ear Barbra Streisand’s beautifully haunting song “The Way We Were.” It was a nostalgic, wistful song in a movie of the same name. But sometimes, like now, it reminds me of how far we’ve come.

    November 19, 2013

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing