Probably the single biggest accomplishment of Diane Murphey’s life is one she shares with her husband, Ron Murphey. They have raised 6 children and each of them is a caring person who is a good parent, citizen, college graduate, and someone of whom they are extremely proud. Even better, their children have given Ron and Diane 13 ‘perfect’ grandchildren. Diane’s family includes her parents Herb and Marie Mathers and one sister, Donna Jernigan who is a traveling nurse. Two master teachers who had a strong influence on what Diane thinks teaching should be includes her mother, Marie Mathers and Willard McDaniel, Diane’s high school math teacher.
Diane’s father was an oil company geologist and as a young child, Diane moved around a great deal. Her mother always got the books from the next school and made sure Diane was ‘ahead of the class’ when her family arrived. Diane lived in 23 states before her father purchased the Field Insurance Agency and her family settled in Texhoma during Diane’s 8th grade year. Because Diane had a stable home life with loving parents, this nomadic existence served to broaden her horizons and provide an early love of learning and seeing new things and places. However, it also left Diane with a desire to ‘belong’ someplace where she could make a difference. After graduation from Texhoma High School, Diane attended Oklahoma State University where she received both degrees. Although she appreciates the time she spent at OSU, Diane missed the personal touch that a small school provides. Following graduation, Diane taught math, science, history, and ecology to public school students in Georgia, Oregon, and Boise City. While taking some graduate computer courses at OSU one summer, Diane learned that OPSU wanted to start a computer department. Irvin Hopson convinced Dr. Tom Palmer that Diane could do the job – and she was given the opportunity to start the Computer Information Systems program at OPSU. Diane says, “I walked into one of the real blessings of my life!”
OPSU has been a very big part of Diane’s life. Not only has she taught here for 26 years, her mother, husband, and 3 of her children are graduates of OPSU. OPSU has been good to Diane and she is grateful for the ways she may have been able to contribute to its continued success. Diane believes strongly in its mission and in the ability of small schools and universities to provide not just an excellent education – but to also produce thinking, creative, hard working graduates who know how to learn. Many years ago Diane came across a quote from MIT professor Marvin Minsky that has become her mantra: “My job is to teach students not some particular skill but to teach them to think so that they can do anything they want to do.”
In developing the Computer Information Systems program at OPSU, Diane could not have accomplished anything without fellow dedicated CIS faculty members and great students who all loved learning new and challenging things. Diane admits it is fun to be around people who don’t mind in if their ‘brain hurts’ from stretching their mind. For the first 17 years of the program, Pamela Nelson Farhendorf helped direct the CIS program and was critical to its early success. Pamela left OPSU to eventually become CS Department Chair at SEOSU. Other CIS partners in this journey include Matthew Carter, Steve Martin, Mindy Davis, Joe Breeden, and Vicki Pasque. Information Systems is a volatile, fast changing arena where each day is an opportunity to learn and teach something new. Without everyone working together, the CIS department would not have been able to continue to provide opportunities for its students. The goals for CIS students include a strong foundation of computer knowledge, the ability to communicate with people, read a manual, and solve a problem. If the department can help the students to accomplish these things, they will be able to choose where they wish to contribute.
During Diane’s time at OPSU, the CIS students have been able to compete in regional and national contests. Through sponsorship from many area businesses, individuals, and graduates as well as funding from OPSU, students are able to compete in the Association of Information Technology contests. In the last 9 years, OPSU CIS students have won 48 top 10 awards while competing against students from schools much larger than OPSU. These awards include both national championships and regional championships in a variety of contests. OPSU students are not only successful in programming contests, but also in the work place. Graduates of the OPSU CIS program are the true success story of the program. They are contributing to the success of both local and national businesses, government, and schools. They are programmers, network administrators, Chief Information Officers, data base administrators, high school teachers, university faculty, system analysts, consultants, and more. They are employed in the region by PTCI, Hitch Enterprises, Guymon Public Schools, Laverne Public School, PSVN, OPSU, Seward County Community College, Frank Phillips Community College, Seaboard, Pantex, and many others. National employers include Wal-mart, NASA contractors at the Johnson Space Center, State Farm, USAA, US State Department, and more.
The two most recent changes in the CIS department include the creation of an option in the Bachelor of Technology degree for a major in Computer Graphics and an increased emphasis in the CIS program on security and information assurance as well as integrated skills that span web accessed databases, network administration and support, programming, and web site development and design. These were made possible in part by the CIS department receiving one of four 5 year Program of Excellence grants from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
Diane would like to thank the Alumni Association for this award. She is honored to be a recipient and would like to accept it not only for herself, but also for the faculty and students that helped make it possible.