Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Mentoring a generation of storytellers: Mark Murray’s enduring passion for student media

Mark Murray won the Carl Towley Award in 2014.

He’s not on the payroll of DC Comics or Marvel movies, but there’s no doubt Mark Murray is a scholastic journalism super hero.

He developed his super powers at an early age as the oldest of four children growing up in a family devoted to service. He was the enforcer, the peace keeper, the advice giver and the teacher.

“Dad was a minister and the whole household focused on service,” Murray said. “When we moved to Arlington, (Texas) we volunteered to help wherever we could. We even designed and built a haunted house for the neighborhood kids.”

Murray said he was a bit of an introvert when they moved to Arlington and it was Mrs. Hill, his seventh grade reading teacher, who encouraged him to come out of his shell by joining the Nichols Junior High School yearbook staff. That was a turning point for him. In eighth and ninth grades he was a photographer for the Roundup and as a sophomore he processed his first roll of film. By his senior year he was co-editor of the book focusing on photography while his co-editor handled the writing.

After considering several college options, he found his home at East Texas State University, Commerce. Known as the Little Brooks of the Southwest, ET State offered Murray a chance to major in photography and be heavily involved in the department’s activities. As board member and then president of the Third Floor Photographic Society, he sharpened his organizational skills by starting High School Shoot Out contest for high school students.

“I wanted a degree in photography and that was hard to find,” Murray said. “The quality of the program was on par with the Brooks Institute of Photography at the time, so I learned a lot. I joined the magazine staff and the contests we developed were geared for healthy competition.”

His first teaching job in 1984 took him back to Lamar High School, his alma mater, where he was required to have a teaching credential in Industrial Arts to teach photography.

“Charles Richey taught industrial arts and photography, which was his hobby. He wanted to retire but held on to the position until I could graduate. I had to complete 30 hours of industrial arts courses after I started teaching to keep the job.”

Murray taught photography and was the photo adviser for the yearbook and newspaper. He joined an organization of photo instructors which later became Association of Texas Photography Instructors which he served as president and for 35 years now as executive director.

At a convention Murray, who says he is “great at implementing other people’s ideas,” heard Grady Locklear talk about Signature magazine, produced by students at Sumter High School in South Carolina. Inspired, he returned to Lamar and collaborated with an English teacher and an art teacher to create élan, an award-winning magazine that has earned both a Silver Crown from CSPA and Pacemaker awards from NSPA.

Over the last 40 years, Murray has been a welcomed presence at state and national conventions, summer workshops and individual school and adviser consultations. He works behind the scenes creating the best possible experience for those he serves. In recognition of his work he has received the Star of Texas from ATPI, the Trailblazer Award from TAJE, Pioneer Award from NSPA, Edith Fox King Award from ILPC, Texas Legend Award from UIL, Elizabeth Dickey Distinguished Service Award from SIPA, Gold Key and Joseph M. Murphy awards from CSPA, Medal of Merit and Carl Towley awards from JEA.

But beyond the accolades are the heartfelt words of those who have worked with him and advisers he has helped be better.

Over the last 40 years, Murray has been a welcomed presence at state and national conventions, summer workshops and individual school and adviser consultations.

“Clearly Mark Is a great teacher, team member and leader. You see, Mark truly likes to help people—regardless of their experience, said Nancy Smith, 2018 Carl Towley winner. “He fixes things that are broken, he improves things that will fit his vision for improvement and then helps get us that place. He is the most unselfish person I know.”

Murray sees his most important contributions as simplifying processes of contests, membership programs, teaching classes at conventions (he has taught pre-convention workshops since 1998) and working behind the scenes wherever he is asked.

He wants to encourage new advisers to stay in education and sees conventions as one way to make that happen.

“We bring advisers and students together to meet with others who have the same interests,” Murray said. “Most advisers are an island in their schools because there’s no one else doing a similar job. At conventions, and within the scholastic journalism community, relationships and support groups are naturally formed and programs like mentoring and the curriculum initiative help new advisers feel connected.”

For Murray the past, present and future of scholastic journalism is about service, a credo he lives by.

“In my life, there has always been a commitment to service that came from my father. A quotation from Albert Schweitzer that hangs in his office now hangs in mine.”

“The full measure of a man is not to be found in the man himself but in the colors and textures that come alive in others because of him.”

And that, quite simply, is Mark Murray’s super power.

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