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3 Questions With: Cambridge’s Ann Murphy, Educator & Activist

Dr. Ann Murphy worked in politics and state government before returning to grad school and getting a PhD.  She taught literature and peace studies at Assumption College for 25 years. Since retiring, Dr. Murphy has taught writing in the Clemente program, which offers college credit to lower income students; volunteered for Indivisible and Swing Left; and traveled. Brenda says she’s incredibly lucky Ann has been her friend for over 40 years.

What would you tell your 20-year old self about life and career?

I can’t remember who my 20-year old self was, and any advice I might give about life and career to a 20-year old today is so rooted in my experiences of the ‘60s and ‘70s that it would have little relevance.  However, I would tell any 20-year old, then or now, that it’s worse to look back on sins of omission than on sins of commission.  So — go for it.  Take risks.  The irresponsible or risky things I did are the ones I remember now with most pleasure.  And then there’s the old Janis Joplin line: don’t compromise yourself.  It’s all you got. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

I’ve received a good deal of advice over 70 years, some of it quite good, though most of it was not useful.  However, when I was in high school my mother gave me this enduringly valuable advice: “whenever you are at a big party, go into the kitchen.  The people you find hanging out there are almost always the ones you want to be with.”  It’s true and has served me well over the years.  

The second great advice I got was from a college professor.  He told us that maturing is the process of “learning to distinguish between trying to be who you want to be and trying to be who you think you ought to want to be.”  It’s not always easy, I have found, to distinguish between the two, but it’s an enormously helpful way to test yourself when you’re faced with a complicated choice.   

What excites you about the future?

In truth I am not terribly hopeful about the future these days.  But I love being retired, and I am excited about having more time to spend time with friends and the freedom to decide what I want to do and how I want to spend my time, and I am excited about continuing to travel.  I’ve recently been to Iceland and Malta, Ireland and Tahiti, and I hope to see more new places in the coming year. 

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