Alumna, President of Whitman College to Speak at Commencement
April 3, 2017
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Illinois Wesleyan University alumna Kathleen M. Murray, the current
president of Whitman College in Washington state, will speak at the University’s Commencement on Sunday, May 7. During the ceremony, Murray will receive an honorary doctor of
humane letters degree, along with alumnus Sam Porritt, a member of the Class of 1984.
The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at the Kemp Commencement Plaza in front of State
Farm Hall. In case of inclement weather, Commencement will be held in the Shirk Center.
The event will be live streamed and available for viewing on demand at www.iwu.edu/live (U.S.A.) or available internationally here.
Murray is the first woman to head Whitman since its founding in 1882 and is the 14th Whitman president overall. She began her presidency in July 2015 and is overseeing
the development of a five-year strategic plan and the building of a new residence
hall at the liberal arts college, located in Walla Walla.
Murray came to Whitman from Macalester College, where she served as provost and dean
from 2008 to 2015. Prior to that, Murray was provost at Birmingham-Southern College
for three years. She spent 19 years at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, first as
a member of the piano faculty and department chair, then as dean of the Conservatory
of Music, and finally as dean of the faculty.
She received a bachelor’s degree in music from Illinois Wesleyan in 1979, a master
of music in piano performance from Bowling Green State University, and a doctorate
in piano performance and pedagogy from Northwestern University in 1989.
A frequent performer, Murray is also a clinician and adjudicator both nationally and
internationally, as well as the author of numerous articles on music and music education.
She is recorded on the CRI label.
Porritt is the founder of the Falling Forward Foundation, the only nonprofit organization
in the country funding the continued rehabilitation of patients recovering from catastrophic
medical issues such as strokes, brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.
While on vacation in Italy in August 2011, Porritt suffered a spinal cord injury resulting
from an accident. Initially, he was paralyzed from the waist down. He would need extensive
rehabilitation. Fortunately, Porritt learned that his medical insurance placed no
limit on rehabilitation.
During his more than two years in rehab, Porritt saw the impact of therapy caps first
hand. He met hundreds of patients whose recoveries were cut short when their insurance
benefits stopped, and they were unable to pay out of their own pockets. Porritt launched
Falling Forward in 2013 to give other patients the same opportunity he had – to continue
medical rehabilitation and to recover to full potential. So far, Falling Forward has
supported the recovery of 69 people in four states. As far as his own recovery, Porritt
now walks with the assistance of a cane.
Prior to his accident, Porritt spent much of his professional career as a consumer
marketing executive and consultant. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago
Booth School of Business and today lives in Lawrence, Kan.