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Longtime UND counselor Jim Murphy remembered as a 'life changer'

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Jim Murphy. Submitted photo/UND2 / 2

Colleagues say Jim Murphy was the kind of person you wanted to be around, the kind of person you wanted to open up to, a person who helped change lives.

Murphy, a longtime staff counselor at UND, died at his home in Grand Forks on Sunday. He was 64.

“He was an energetic, passionate, enthusiastic, caring and approachable -- probably the most approachable -- person that I’ve ever met in my life,” said Tom Solem, interim director UND Counseling Center. “No matter what he had going on he always put people first. ... He was just that person that you could always count on.”

Murphy had had cancer for several years, Solem said.

Solem said his wife, who didn’t know Murphy well, remarked earlier this week that, “everybody needs a Jim Murphy in their life.”


Murphy was a staff counselor at the University Counseling Center for more than 14 years at UND. He has served countless UND students and the UND community at large, by providing alcohol and drug counseling and treatment, mental health counseling and outreach services.

There was an endless number of people coming and going from Murphy’s retirement party in May, Solem said, noting that he had never seen so many students come to see someone off.

    People were always stopping to say ‘hello’ to Murphy or give him updates on their progress, Solem said.

    In 2010, the Herald published an article about Murphy’s impact on campus. In the article, several students spoke about the how Murphy affected their lives, being there when they needed help the most.

    Bob Boyd, a now retired longtime vice president of student and outreach services, was also amazed by Murphy’s work.

    "This guy is worth a million," Boyd said in 2010.

    Murphy not only inspired students to change their lives, but he also inspired at least one person to become a therapist herself. Theresa Knudson, a staff counselor at UND, had Murphy for a therapist around a decade ago. It was in Murphy’s office that she decided she wanted to become a therapist as well.

    “I can’t think of a better person who taught me what it meant to help people along in their own healing process than him,” she said.

    Murphy made people feel comfortable to be their true selves around him and would often invite people to come sit on his front porch to talk about life, Knudson said. Murphy didn’t judge others and was an incredibly loving person.

    Knudson said she’ll miss sitting down in Murphy’s office in the morning and having a cup of coffee with him and just sharing her heart with him.

    “He is a life changer,” Knudson said. “He literally changed hundreds, probably thousands of people’s lives in his lifetime, and I think he did that because he was genuinely happy to see other people succeed.”

      Sydney Mook

      Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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