Former Principal Murray leaves 23 year legacy of tireless dedication

Murray+was+described+as+having+stacks+of+books+and+files+in+his+office+to+the+ceiling%2C+which+displayed+just+how+many+things+he+was+juggling+at+one+time+as+principal.+

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Murray was described as having stacks of books and files in his office to the ceiling, which displayed just how many things he was juggling at one time as principal.

By Sierra Pape, Midtown High School

Former Grady Principal Dr. Vincent Murray, the longest-serving principal in the school’s history, passed away on Dec. 21 at age 75 leaving a lasting legacy.
Murray served as an educator in Atlanta Public Schools for over 30 years, including as principal of Herndon Elementary School and later as principal of Grady from 1991-2014. He was noted as a powerful advocate for public school education and equal access to education by family and colleagues.
“Education is accessible for everyone, but you have to have the right conditions to make kids successful,” Murray said to the Southerner in 2006. “They have a lot of their own self-doubts about what they are capable of, and you have to convince them they can step up and eliminate that fear. Early preparation [starting] in the ninth grade gives students the confidence that they could do well in honors and higher-level classes.”
Murray’s funeral consisted of posters and candles from multiple graduating classes and the service was attended by several former staff members and students. John Brandhorst, head of the art department at Midtown, who has taught 23 years at the school and worked closely with Dr. Murray, shared powerful words at the service, expressing the sentiment of many teachers and students at Midtown.

“He was always there to help us find our own ways to negotiate the strange calling that is high school education,” Brandhorst said. “If mistakes were made or boundaries were broken, he was there to guide and support to make it through other places.”
Murray transformed the quality of education and academic success at Grady, which was renamed Midtown last school year,, by implementing programs, including a partnership with Georgia Tech called Opportunity Sky Time and a pacesetter program to encourage students to take AP courses. He received the Howard W. McCraw Jr. Prize in education, a nationally-recognized award, for his leadership.
“He was committed to building community and a team,” English and theater teacher Lisa Willoughby, who has taught at the school for 40 years, said. “He saw the faculty, staff, students and even their families, as part of his team to make the school a better place. He was politically savvy enough to use the system rhetoric about site-based management to make sure that we were doing what he believed was in the best interest of our students. It was always about “our students,” and he understood how that rhetoric mattered. Because of his unwavering support, we became fiercely loyal to him and to the school.”
Dr. Murray supported his students’ pursuits and encouraged learning in and outside of the classroom, teachers said.
“He was open,” Willoughby said. “Open to new ideas, open to new people and open to change. He had an open-door policy. He was always willing to stop and take a minute to listen to concerns or new ideas from faculty and staff, from parents, and most importantly, from students. When a possible change and problem arose, he actively sought input from different stakeholders, and allowed everyone, and every point of view to voice itself.”
Today, students and staff like Brandhorst recognize that Midtown would not be where it is today without Dr. Murray’s leadership and resilience.
“We are reminded of this remarkable tenure every time we walk into the Vincent Murray Auditorium,” Brandhorst said. “Dr. Murray’s spirit is still in the halls, and it is now the job of Midtown people to carry the torch. Thank you, Dr. Murray. May we all acknowledge and remember the dedication and impact of this man’s wisdom and actions at Grady high school. We are all better for it.”

This story was originally published on The Southerner on January 20, 2023.