Faculty & Staff News

Political science professor retires after 54 years at UH

Murray teaching his last class over zoom for the fall 2020 semester. | Courtesy of Deborah Hartman

Murray teaching his last class over Zoom for the Fall 2020 semester. | Courtesy of Deborah Hartman

After calling the University home for nearly 54 years, Richard Murray, a professor in the department of political science, is hanging up his hat as he goes into retirement.

Since 1966, Murray has been a political science professor to over 500 students a semester and even as many as 400 in a class. Murray is proud of that fact, he said.

“Well probably just meeting with about 25,000 students, I’ve had a shot with having taught more students at UH than anybody in history because no one else has taught this many years with these large of classes,” Murray said.

“I am a student-centered person, and that’s my proudest achievement, (this) is the opportunity to try to be a positive influence with a large public university body.”  

Although Murray has taught many students within his five decades at UH, he said his students have also taught him and have given him a sense of admiration for not only Houstonians, but for people around the world, especially during a time like this. 

“Everyone is a unique person, you don’t put people in boxes,” Murray said. “Everyone has a story and I learned to listen to those stories with the respect (students) have given me, the appreciation and wonderful (kindness) of the human race. And given we’re such a diverse campus with so many people here that come from enormously different backgrounds, these are powerful human stories and Houston is just a great place to encounter those.”  

Murray said he was treated well by the University and his colleagues, as well as the fact that the University has been an interesting and dynamic place.

Throughout the years, Murray has also done political consulting as well as legal consulting around the country. Murray also participated in research, however, he continued his passion for teaching. 

When Murray entered the workforce after receiving his degree at Louisiana State University and attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota, he quickly found his calling card here in Houston and never looked back.

“I have been a fairly serious researcher, but I’ve never seen my goal in life to become a very famous national political scientist,” Murray said. “I was more focused on classroom teaching and had no interest in becoming a full time administrator. I did some of that but I always retained my classroom teaching.” 

Murray’s favorite part of teaching as a professor is the interaction with the students, which is why he decided to sign up for a hybrid class with some limited in-person interaction with the students, he said. That will be the part he misses, according to Murray.

“I miss the contact and the back and forth. A lot of education is not reading a script or anything, it’s getting people involved and we’ve been able to do some of that this semester, but in the age of the pandemic, we just do the best we can,” Murray said. 

Murray looking over his work in his office. | Courtesy of Deborah Hartman

Murray looking over his work in his office. | Courtesy of Deborah Hartman

Despite the challenges this year has brought, Murray said he still enjoyed teaching this semester and teaching overall, although his method of engaging with students looked quite different from the decades teaching prior.  

“I’m not a tech person, so I struggled particularly early (on) when we were trying to get these hybrid classes up, and (there were) some glitches on my part and some failures,” Murray said. “Things largely got worked out. I’m still happy I taught this semester. I wish we would have had a regular semester and with all that brings with it, but I’m fully aware of how deadly serious the health issues are.” 

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