Mary Jo (Joey) (Keller) Murray

Class of 1967


I came to St. Mary of the Springs in 1963, right before the name change. I knew I wanted to study History, but was actually planning on transferring to another university after my sophomore year. I didn’t feel challenged enough and really wanted to attend Georgetown University in their Foreign Studies program. By chance, another student, Susan McGough, told me one day to check out a notice on the bulletin board up in Sansbury Hall. It was for a scholarship to study Japanese or Chinese languages at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii for a new junior year program funded by the government. Fifteen fellowships were offered in each language; I applied for the Japanese language and received the fellowship. I went on to spend my junior year in Hawaii and the following summer in Tokyo. 

This fellowship changed my life. During my senior year, professors Sr. Camilla Mullay and Dr. June Horton encouraged me to attend graduate school, so I went back to Hawaii to pursue an  MA in Chinese and Japanese history. 

At a graduation party, I met a cute young man playing the guitar – he was a new professor of biology. We went on two dates before I left for Honolulu, and ended up getting married in late 1968 when I began my Ph.D. studies at The Ohio State University. I did all my coursework in Asian studies, but when my new husband, Bob, accepted a teaching position at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, we moved there. After two children, we moved to University of California at Davis then back to Heidelberg after three years. A position became open in the History department at Heidelberg in 1982 (where I taught until 2006). I applied for a fellowship to UCLA in 1985 in Middle Eastern Studies, then received a Fulbright to Egypt in 1988, another fellowship to Dartmouth College in Central Asian Studies in 1993 and another Fulbright to Morocco and Tunisia in 1995. In 1996, I received an Armco scholarship to visit Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Sr. Camilla and Dr. Horton reinforced the idea that a woman could achieve professional status, but to do so, we would have to work harder than our male counterparts. They grounded me in rigorous historical studies, the investigation of relevant sources and showed me that marriage and children didn’t have to stop this pursuit. In our marriage, my husband – who had taught in the Biology department at ODC – decided he would do all kinds of seminars around the country as he pursued tenure at Heidelberg while I stayed home with our two children. After that, it was my turn to travel on fellowships and Fulbrights and he would care for the children. Since he was the cook in our family, our two kids ate well while I was away!

How did this affect my teaching? I had firsthand knowledge of the regions I taught and had many stories to share. Combined, it helped students become interested in these areas. It also imbued our children with a desire to become internationalist learners. Our daughter spent her senior year in college in the UK, ultimately interning for those working for the peace process in Northern Ireland. Today, she is a professor of Psychology. Our son spent summers in Spain studying Spanish, did archeology work in Israel and, after college, spent two years teaching in Micronesia for the Jesuit International Program. Today, he is a high school History teacher in Cincinnati.

We became a family of educators; our dinner conversations were about foreign affairs. My husband took students to Belize to study reef ecology and, later, to other countries. Ohio Dominican gave me my springboard for international travel, historical explorations and my career as a professor of History. 

I never regretted the choices I made and have had a fulfilling career and educational opportunities. I could teach about the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, for example, because I rode a mule down its terrifying paths. It was scary, but it was that reality that made me a good professor, encouraging my students to pursue these same experiences.

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