The Late Carolyn Murphy


Carolyn Murphy, fondly known as "The Frau" to generations of former students, colleagues and friends, spent the larger part of her time as a public educator in the North Penn School District (NPSD) and most of her life as a dedicated, beloved member of the North Penn community. With a strong-willed approach and passionate drive, Carolyn Murphy was an advocate for the education and well-being of students in the NPSD and a force which to be reckoned.

Born in Illinois, Carolyn graduated from Auburn High School in 1963. She attended the University of Colorado and majored in German Education, with a minor in Russian, graduating in 1967. She then went on to earn her master's equivalency in linguistics from West Chester University. Carolyn taught German in Illinois and Colorado for a short time before she and her husband, Paul, moved to Lansdale.

Carolyn began her long, cherished journey with NPSD in 1981, teaching exploratory German and Linguistics to middle school students for several years. She moved to North Penn High School (NPHS) in the early 1990s teaching German until she retired in 2009.

As an educator, Carolyn was exceptional. She was known by her colleagues for spending countless hours in B-Pod at North Penn dreaming up innovative and engaging lessons for her students. One of these lessons included her famed unit on swimming vocabulary, during which Carolyn would walk around her classroom in B-111 with flippers on her feet a scuba mask strapped to hair face. Carolyn challenged her students every day and did everything in her power to make sure that they were leaving her care as not only better German students, but also more empathetic and aware humans.

Invariably, a teaching career of nearly 30 years in the same district enables one's legacy to be wide and vast. In some cases, people were able to know Carolyn not only as a colleague but also as a teacher.

"I remember her when I was a student, feeling like she really got to know me personally and care for me as more than just a name on her roster," said Andy Baker, a North Penn graduate and now a German teacher at NPHS. "Then as a [fellow] German Club board member she was extremely determined to have things run right, but run by the students, and I feel that was something that I was able to take away from my time working with her."

From the gate, Carolyn took an active role in her classroom and in the language department at North Penn. She was an Exchange Student Advisor at NPHS until 2005, a German Club board member and served on the International Friendship Committee (IFC) since 1992. Carolyn was passionate about the work of the IFC and lived out the mission of its exchange student program within the community. She devoted much time and effort into advising foreign students spending their year at NPHS, counseling NPHS students studying abroad the following year, ensuring NPHS students had proper visas and working to establish new partner schools. Her efforts were innumerable and invaluable.

Carolyn's dedication to North Penn was strong-willed and unwavering. Her advocacy for students was multifaceted. Carolyn's voice spoke loudly on behalf of the best interests for student success and safety. In fact, it is rumored that Carolyn is the reason that tornado drills at NPHS take place and take place downstairs. Being from the Midwest, Carolyn hated that students and staff were upstairs for tornado drills and hounded then Principal Burt Hynes until he changed the format.

Carolyn's commitment to the North Penn community lasted far beyond her years as an educator in the district. Two years following her retirement, she was elected to the NPSD Board of School Directors in 2011 and then re-elected in 2015. For Carolyn, her dedication to public education throughout her life stemmed from her beliefs about the value of public schools and the importance of continuing to make them better.

In an interview prior to the 2015 school board election with the student-run newspaper at NPHS, The Knight Crier, Carolyn said, "My first term confirmed and strengthened my belief in public education. Public education is my passion and I am proud to have shared that passion with the North Penn School District in many ways over the last 40 years."

Through her work on the school board, Carolyn chaired the Safe Schools Committee and was a member of the Education and Community Policy Committee. She served as the board representative for both the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit and the NPSD Educational Foundation. Her term was not set to expire until 2019. Sadly, Carolyn passed away on December 10, 2016 at the age of 71.

Public education was always central to Carolyn's life. For over 40 years, in addition to her classroom teaching career and service to the NPSD Board of School Directors, she served as Home and School President, Long-Range Planning Member, Middle States Team Member and North Penn Association for Gifted Education (NPAGE) Officer.

Outside of NPSD, Carolyn was an active member of the Gwynedd Square Presbyterian Church. She was also heavily involved with the local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) since the early 1970s. In 2014, Carolyn received the AAUW's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Among Carolyn's many hard-earned recognitions, perhaps her proudest accomplishment was that she was a North Penn parent. Carolyn and Paul's son, Michael, spent all of his years of public education in the NPSD. Carolyn and Paul could be spotted in the stands at Crawford Stadium and at every away game under the Friday night lights, supporting the North Penn Knights football team and rooting for their son. The Murphys' unwavering support for the Knights long surpassed Michael's graduation from NPHS in 1989, as Carolyn excitedly watched on as they captured another District 1 title last season.

Long before she was voting on school district policies, Carolyn was in the trenches of public education in roles as parent and community member. In fact, it was Carolyn's involvement in the Home and School Association of Michael's elementary school that ignited her passion for North Penn education and led her to become a teacher in the district.

The Frau's legacy in the NPSD and throughout the North Penn community lives on in the students, colleagues and friends whose lives were, and will be changed by her tenacious advocacy for student success and life-long learning.

"As a community member raising a child; as an educator of Linguistics and German; as a firm proponent of molding North Penn children into global citizens; and as a school board member looking out for children of every demographic - Carolyn was motivated and driven by what she believed was in the best interest of the students at North Penn," said Anita Sapalidis, NPHS French teacher and former colleague and friend of Carolyn.

"The education and well-being of the children of NPSD were always at the forefront of every idea and action that Carolyn Murphy initiated," Anita continued. "She is a Knight of Honor."