Life, it turns out, isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, even for the president of one of the most well-known franchises in the history of professional sports.

Mark H. Murphy ’77, president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, said that in addition to making sure  MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is happy, he needs to keep happy the thousands of shareholders who own the NFL team. Like Patrick, from California, who wrote a letter to him that said:

“I’ve been to Lambeau Field three times in the last four years.  On December 5th this year, I did have some issues come up that I wasn’t very happy with, and thought that I would let you know.  The concession stand outside Section 123 ran out of bratwursts in the third quarter.  How can they be out of brats at a Green Bay Packer game in Wisconsin?  I look forward to working with you.”

Mark Murphy at commencement

Mark Murphy '77 dons a cheesehead, the headwear made famous by Green Bay Packers fans, as he concludes his remarks. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

That anecdote was one of several Murphy shared with members of the Class of 2012 and their families and friends who gathered in Sanford Field House on Sunday for Colgate’s 191st commencement.

Murphy, a successful athlete, lawyer, manager, mentor, and community leader, is the epitome of the Colgate scholar-athlete. After his stint as captain of the Raiders football team, Murphy played eight seasons with the Washington Redskins, and is believed to be the first person to earn a Super Bowl ring as a player (XVII, 1982) and as a team chief executive (XLV, 2010).

In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Colgate, Murphy holds a law degree from Georgetown University and an MBA in finance from American University. He served as assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, and as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He served as athletics director at Colgate and at Northwestern University before being named president and CEO of the Packers in 2007.

In his commencement address, Murphy talked about all that Colgate has given him, the invaluable education, lasting friendships (he met his wife, Laurie, on campus), and a job that changed his career path.

“They hired me as athletics director.  They took a chance on me.  I was 36 years old and relatively inexperienced.  It completely changed my career path and allowed me to follow my passion.”


Seniors take part in Colgate's 191st commencement exercises. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Murphy talked about the role his father, known as Murph, had on his life. His dad shared with him what he called pearls of wisdom, including:  Don’t burn bridges, don’t sweat the small stuff, and the harder you work the luckier you get.

“When I was a teenager, I would roll my eyes when my father would tell me his pearls. I thought they were corny, but, as I grew older, I realized that these pearls really made sense.”

Murphy donned a cheesehead, the headwear made famous by legions of Packers fans around the country, as he concluded his remarks and once again congratulated the seniors. He also wished the men’s lacrosse team good luck as they prepared to play Duke later today in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Nine seniors on the team received their diplomas during a special ceremony on Saturday night overseen by Gus Coldebella ’91, a member of the Board of Trustees. The ceremony was held at the team’s hotel in Philadelphia, where today’s game was to be played.

A short video clip from the team members to their classmates was introduced by President Jeffrey Herbst during the commencement exercise.

In his speech, Herbst cited the class graduation rate of  89.7 percent, the highest in recent decades, and he also thanked the class for its participation rate of 95 percent — a school record —  for its senior class gift, a scholarship in honor of Vic Krivitski ’12.

Krivitski was awarded a diploma posthumously on Sunday after having also received the university’s highest honor granted to a senior, the 1819 Award, during the awards convocation on Saturday. Krivitski’s parents took part in the commencement weekend activities in honor of their son, who died last August after a battle with cancer.

Herbst urged the seniors to play an active role in the battle of ideas and attempt to raise the standard of discourse that is continually evolving in today’s digital age.

“Your generation will set the rules for the digital future.  Do it with care and with the knowledge and critical habits that you have learned at this timeless place,” he said.