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Murray makes plans for new life chapter

Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray stands by some of the trains in his collection in his office at the New Mexico Military Institute. The chief academic officer and dean of academics at the Institute, Murray will retire at the end of June. His many honors include the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The Leadership Roswell Alumni Association presents awards to outstanding community members each year, with recipients nominated by area residents and chosen by a selection committee. The Roswell Daily Record has featured each award winner this week, with this being the fourth and final article in the 2021 series.

A chapter is concluding for Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray, but his retirement as chief academic officer and dean of academics at New Mexico Military Institute will not mean the end of his efforts with the Institute, higher education or the military.

Murray is preparing to leave the Institute after almost 14 years at the end of June. He intends to move to Colorado Springs, where he will be near his three children and seven grandchildren. The city is also home to the Colorado Military Academy, which Murray will serve as a member of its board of directors, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he spent 25 years as an academic administrator and professor.

Following the recent adoption of the Institute’s 2030 strategic plan and the successful completion of the fourth accreditation during his tenure, Murray said he recognized that he was ready for the next phase in his life.

“It is time to let the next generation come into the school and impact what we do,” he said.

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That does not mean, however, that his association with Roswell has ended. He expects to have some continued contact with the Institute as it implements the new strategic plan, as well as to to remain in touch with fellow board members with the Walker Aviation Museum Foundation. City of Roswell officials also have talked about asking him to provide advice as they develop a new strategic plan for the Roswell Air Center.

His years of service to Roswell led the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association to give him its 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors those with a “history of giving to Chaves County” who also are recognized as leaders in their fields.

For Murray, the award is one of many. Others include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two oak clusters and the Meritorious Service Medal with one oak cluster. He also was honored in May by NMMI regents with their Regent Medal Award and the Honorary Alumnus Award.

“His impact on countless cadets, faculty and staff at NMMI is incredible and is his testament to his love of the Institute, a critical part of the fabric of Roswell,” stated his Leadership Roswell Alumni Award nominators. They included Lt. Col. Kalith Smith and Lt. Col. Patricia Matchin of the Institute, as well as Renee Maloney and Kate Yates. Maloney, of Assumption Catholic Church, indicated that Murray has taught catechism and mentored other teachers. Yates, of the Walker Aviation Museum, wrote that Murray organized fundraising golf tournaments, arranged for speakers at events and gave five years to the board to help the group advance its goals.

Murray’s work with the Air Force began in 1965 after he graduated as a distinguished scholar from Georgetown University. He had varied assignments over the years while also earning a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, but the focus was on intelligence operations, strategic planning and operations support. He served with two Secretaries of the Air Force under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, with one of his duties to develop the academic plan for all Air Force educational institutions. At the U.S. Air Force Academy, he was part of a group that created the Dwight David Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies.

His experience as a strategic thinker was called on many times while at the Institute, recalled Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, president and superintendent, who joined the Institute in July 2009.

“One of my fondest memories was walking into our main conference room the first week I was here and seeing a big digital clock, mounted on the wall, with the numbers in big, red numerals flashing ‘703.’ When I asked what was the significance of the digital clock, BG Murray said, ‘That represents the number of days until our Higher Learning Commission accreditation visit. That visit will determine if you and I will continue to be employees at NMMI,’” Grizzle said.

Grizzle indicated that the Institute earned a perfect score, with no stipulations or need for follow-ups, and a 10-year accreditation for the junior college in 2011, with the same results for the 2013 high school accreditation.

“To accomplish this, BG Murray led the development of the first truly strategic plan for the future of NMMI,” Grizzle said. “Not resting on his or our laurels, we had another high school evaluation in 2018 and a second junior college accreditation visit this school year — all with the same maximum results.”

Grizzle said that back-to-back “clean” opinions from accrediting groups are rare for high schools and colleges. While Murray credits others, Grizzle said the results are a “tribute to BG Murray and his leadership abilities to guide a very diverse, 300-plus employee workforce.”

When Murray explained his retirement plans, Grizzle asked him to prepare the next strategic plan. “NMMI 2030 — Moving Forward in the 21st Century” was approved by the Board of Regents in May.

Murray said that a strategic plan is not a document, but a planning system that defines needs and goals, guides daily decisions and is used to evaluate and assess outcomes.

“In aviation terms, it is your flight plan. It is your GPS (global positioning system),” said Murray. “It is what guides all that you do.”

Murray’s directional system is about leadership development.

Murray said that society needs leaders in all of its segments, and he thinks the ideal way to prepare people to serve their families, communities, countries and world is through the military learning model that began in the 15th century and integrates academic achievement, physical conditioning and character development.

“What defines a military school is not the fact that we have folks that go into the military, although we do,” he said. “It is about this model of learning that is very instrumental in developing the skills and knowledge and the traits that make up those conditions to be a leader.”

He said the last 15 years at the Institute have been not only professionally rewarding, but also a crucial part of his personal life, providing special support and solace after his wife of 50 years, Cathy, passed in 2013.

“This is a special place,” he said. “What we do is important to the nation. It is important in developing young men and women who, above all, want to serve their fellow man, if I can use that terminology. It is something more than just a wonderful job.”

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.