Cowley legend Dr. Kermit McMurry named Outstanding Tiger Alumnus
Having excelled as a student-athlete at Arkansas City Junior College and then at the University of Colorado, Dr. Kermit McMurry has gone on to achieve tremendous success in the area of higher education.
Dr. McMurry has been recognized for his achievements by being named this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award.
Dr. McMurry, who still holds Cowley’s school record with 30 rebounds in a game, was inducted into the school’s Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
He has served as the vice chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for the past five years and has worked for the organization for 15 years.
“We want to make sure that all students have an increased likelihood of being successful in college,” Dr. McMurry said. “It is a process of giving back what has already been given to me.”
Prior to coming to what was then known as Arkansas City Junior College, McMurry was a standout basketball player at Kansas City Central High School. As an All-City and All-State performer as a senior, McMurry helped the team to a record of 27-2 and a third place finish at the state tournament.
Still, McMurry had no idea as to where he would attend college prior to being recruited by then Tiger head coach Joe Sumners. One visit to ACJC was all it took for McMurry to make his college decision.
It wasn’t until he got to the school that he realized the direction that he wanted to take as he went on to achieve greatness in the classroom as well as on the court.
“At Cowley I found a place so warm and wonderful that I knew it was where I wanted to be,” Dr. McMurry said. “I knew it was in my best interest to start at Cowley and it turned out to be the best decision I have made in my life.”
McMurry set the school record, which still stands today, with 30 rebounds against Northeastern Oklahoma College on Jan. 18, 1964. In the game verses Northeastern, McMurry also finished with 31 points in the 121-91 victory. However, his 30 rebounds are the statistic most remembered from that game.
McMurry had several nights like that during his two years at the school as he still ranks in the top 10 of three different categories.
His 38 points against Northeastern on Dec. 8, 1964, ranks 10th in the Tigers’ single-game scoring records. That same season, he finished with 622 points, which is still the ninth most points scored in a single season at Cowley.
If it were not for injuries McMurry suffered during his sophomore season, he would have made a run at season (723 points) and career (1,323) totals set six years earlier by his former coach Del Heidebrecht. McMurry is currently 12th on the Tigers’ career scoring list with 987 points.
Among all of his basketball accomplishments, McMurry considers being named the team’s Most Inspirational Player of the Year during the 1964-65 season to be his most treasured.
“That award means a lot to me, considering it came from my teammates,” Dr. McMurry said.
After his time in Arkansas City, McMurry accepted an athletic scholarship to play basketball at the University of Colorado. Colorado was the premier school in the Big Eight Conference for McMurry’s academic interests. While finishing his bachelor’s degree in education, McMurry was a two-year starter for the Buffaloes. In 1968, McMurry was named an All-Big Eight performer and was named the team’s Most Improved Player.
He was offered a graduate assistant scholarship to work on his master’s degree while serving as an assistant basketball coach. His master’s is in education.
While education was opening doors for him, McMurry always thought he wanted to become a head basketball coach. He left Boulder in 1970 for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he worked in the division of student affairs and helped the late Joe Cipriano recruit for his men’s basketball team. Still not satisfied with the amount of education he had, McMurry began pursuit of a doctorate for $1 per semester.
“I took advantage of it and before I knew it, I was far down the road to earning a Ph.D.,” Dr. McMurry said.
After earning his doctorate in higher education administration from UNL in 1975, Dr. McMurry embarked on careers with two Nebraska governors and Grambling State University in Louisiana.
He worked for former Nebraska Gov. J. James Exon as head of the coordinating commission for post-secondary education. He then served nine years as executive vice president of Grambling. Then it was back to Nebraska to head up Gov. Kay Orr’s higher education policy cabinet. Dr. McMurry organized the governor’s position on matters related to higher education.
And it was a connection on Orr’s staff that led Dr. McMurry to his current job, vice chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The Regents is the coordinating board of control for 25 colleges and universities in Oklahoma.
Dr. McMurry credits Cowley for helping him get to where he is today.
“It all starts back at Cowley College,” Dr. McMurry said. “Cowley laid the foundation for what I have achieved.”
Being named the Outstanding Tiger Alumnus for 2011 is a humbling honor for Dr. McMurry.
“This is an incredible award and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of being recognized by the college,” Dr. McMurry said. “It is a tremendous honor.”
Dr. McMurry has been honored with numerous other awards. In 1971, he earned the Outstanding Young Men of America award presented by the Jaycees. In 1975, he was named to Who’s Who Among Black Americans. And in 1977, he was presented the Pioneer Coordinating Award for Multi-Institutional Planning from UNL. Others include a community service award from Mutual of Omaha in 1989, and the United States President citation for Innovation and Leadership in 1988. In 2001, McMurry received a Quality Recognition Award from the Oklahoma Department of Human Resources. In 2002, he received the governor’s commendation for his public service. He also received the award in 2008 and 2009 for his outstanding leadership.
Dr. McMurry has made it back to the Arkansas City campus regularly as he tries to make it back each year to take part in the Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame activities.
“It is so rewarding to see how much the college has developed and grown through the years,” Dr. McMurry said.
Dr. McMurry has two children, Justin 22, and Eleeya 15. He is married to Susie McMurry.
Dr. McMurry counts former University of Southern California president, Steve Sample, and former University of Kansas president, Gene Budig, as mentors of his. He also had high praise for former UNL chancellor, Hans Brisch, and Stan Matzke, who was the director of administrative services for former Nebraska Gov. J. James Exon.
“I had wonderful mentors that helped lead me in the direction to succeed,” Dr. McMurry said. “I did not do this myself. These people said I had a talent and helped cultivate it. Cowley is a tremendous beacon for education in the state of Kansas, they have done so much for so many. Education is a great equalizer and Cowley prepared me to do everything I have done throughout my career.”