What Makes Desmond Murray Tick?

What appeared to be another mundane Friday shift at the library Writing Center was pleasantly interrupted by brightness. Desk bound and slightly daydreaming, a man approached the office, ultra-focused on my gaze and declared, “I want to tell you…I hope you have a great day.” This once mysterious, but now familiar figure is the wholly admired Desmond Murray. Although recognized for his friendliness and ease, the road to attainment had its fair share of unexpected turns and complications, requiring dedication and ample optimism.

Raised by a single mother within the concrete boroughs of New York, Murray explains, “the Bronx is my life.” At age 18, his mother posed two options: attend college or move out and find an apartment. He and his younger brother decided it would be easier to go to college, so Murray attended the State University of New York at New Paltz while his brother began a year later, across the river at Marist College.

Photo by Chun-LI “Ken” Huang

Photo by Chun-LI “Ken” Huang

College for Murray was “the best life.” He was actively involved, working as a room adviser by day and a radio host by night. Murray played mellow beats, Jazz and slow songs, focusing on the moment, not yet realizing the importance of internships and professional planning. Fortunately, after his junior year, with the help of a connection from his mother, he was hired as a summer intern for the Public Affairs Department at the energy company, Con Edison. Life felt right. He was young, saving money and confident in his future.

After Murray graduated, he interned again with Con Edison. He felt assured. He had employment, a degree in communication and hope to ultimately be on television or to work in the media. However, when Con Edison offered Murray a recommendation letter, rather than a full-time position, his perception began to change. He reflects, “I didn’t deal with life realistically. I was working there. It was comfortable, it was nice, but at that point I knew it wasn’t going to work.” Since Murray did not anticipate this outcome, he was forced to move home to the Bronx. Like any college student who experienced four sweet years of freedom, Murray was not pleased to be back living under the rules and guidelines of someone besides himself. So, he picked up, left the Bronx for good, and attended a career fair for Howard University in Washington D.C. Here he landed another internship with the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Like any internship, this ended, forcing him to once again seek a new career. He was searching and curious for change. He worked various assorted positions, including a temp job with IBM and a teacher’s assistant in the New Paltz Central School District. At one point, Murray was jobless and left with merely one option— to collect unemployment. Finally, he came across an opening within the Higher Education Opportunity Program, HEOP, at Marist College.   

Murray interviewed for and accepted the position at Marist, not knowing it would be home for an enormous chapter of his life. He was glad to have security, but something still felt off. After a couple years in the HEOP Office, Murray considered leaving. Thankfully, he was informed of an open place in Career Services and decided to stay and work within that department instead. It was the perfect choice for Murray and thus, the pieces of his identity forged closer together

Murray is a person who played many roles at Marist, including former editor of Diversity Works Magazine and former Affirmative Action Officer. He is also the founder of Road to the Workplace, an initiative which connects students with quality companies and organizations, such as Goldman Sachs, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Penguin Random House, and more. With this program, students travel to New York City and observe the culture and environment of various work settings. He shares, “The key thing is getting students out with alumni and employers so they can see if this is what they want to do for the rest of their life.”

Today, Murray is concentrated on being the Associate Director for the Employer Experience, a recent promotional role that presented him with a fresh perspective to work. He creates internship opportunities and full time jobs for all Marist students in every program and school. To do this, he must visit and build reputable relationships with prestigious employers from various cities across the country.

He points to a detailed white board and envisions his upcoming plans. He is humble, more eager to discuss this work than his personal self. He states, “I’ve been inspired. I always have so much fun helping students and I get a thrill out of meeting employers. My calling is employer relations and my other calling is being honest. I always tell the truth.”

With the help of technology, Murray has and continues to discover much achievement. He uses LinkedIn and other online methods to locate potential connections and impressive alumni. Nevertheless, this process is not as effortless as it seems. Murray shares, “I still need to talk to people in person. I need to put on a suit and tie and hit the pavement.”

Executive Director of the Center for Career Services, Dr. Mary O. Jones confirms that Murray embodies an influential force on campus. She states, “He is a natural networker, top student advocate, and one of the best colleagues I have ever met. For decades, Murray has served as the “heart” of Career Services. His smile, enthusiasm and charisma has helped countless students achieve career success.”

Considering this contagious personality, it is challenging to understand why Murray has not left Marist for the potential of “bigger” things. Still, the students keep him motivated. Whenever students share their progress to employment or thank him or his coworkers for their aid and support, he emphasizes, “That’s what makes me tick.” Therefore, Murray is more than content with his role, jokingly stating “I don’t know when I’m going to leave Marist College. They might literally have to tell me to stop working.”

And when it comes to his upbeat persona, Murray eloquently puts it, “It is difficult for me not to spread the joy.” Each day, he wishes cheer for students and staff members. He enjoys to uplift spirits and foster sureness. He brings up his mother and credits her effort for this remarkable outlook. The two share a strong bond and uniquely graduated college on the exact same day. His mother was a teller at Citibank while she attended and completed her degree at Fordham University. She worked hard and gained the title of officer, but sadly faced age discrimination. She trained college students who quickly surpassed her standing, despite her sound experience. Murray says, “Me and my brother watched her all our lives. She taught us everything. My mother didn’t get no handouts, she busted her tail.”

Murray admits he also faces career difficulties, stating that work is not “always rosy.” Nonetheless, he has learned to calmly resolve any issue and he is excited for the growth of his responsibilities at Marist. His best advice, “Never give up, like never. Don’t take no for an answer. In terms of life and career, it might take the shape you want and it might not, but you have to be open to risk and open to failure.” Additionally, believing in the brilliant forces of nature, Murray urges students to always carry a resume with them. Whether it be tucked in a journal or coat pocket, there is always chance to meet employers.

Marveling at the vast expansion of Marist, including new innovations such as the Marist in Manhattan space, Murray states now more than ever before it is a great time to be engaged on campus. He concludes, “I have a good quality of life. I never really worked for money and I’m not rich, but I really think I’m rich in blessings.”

Some working people rank wealth and status as the most significant determiners of success. Although desirable, these are not the only channels to fortune. Positivity is also power and no professional journey should require the sacrifice of kindness. Murray proves purpose comes from the wisdoms of within. His words are long-lasting, monumental and entirely pure. No matter the occasion, he upholds to spread happiness throughout Marist and beyond.