Filling Tom Murphy's size 14 shoes | Bob Roegner

Tom Murphy, seen at the announcement of his retirement last fall. - Mirror file photo
Tom Murphy, seen at the announcement of his retirement last fall.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

"And the days dwindle down to a precious few..." is the plaintive refrain that signals the passage of time to its inevitable conclusion.

And such marks next week, when Tom Murphy's distinguished career as an educator and our superintendent of schools will come to a close.

In an effort to stave off that time, or at least rejoice in his impact on the school system, last week the community paused to reflect on his accomplishments.

The Federal Way School District serves as a beacon for innovation and progress. Two of our high schools rank among the best in the country.

But it was really Tom Murphy, the man that we came to honor and will miss. His retirement party captured the sentiment with the theme of "Celebrating a Leader" because his influence and impact has exceeded school district boundaries.

His reach into the fabric of the community and state was striking. He held influence from City Hall to the State Capital. But he exerted his thoughts and goals with such humility and grace that he developed followers and admirers, not opponents.

He could lead by words or inspiration, but his staff identified with his leadership by example. At this retirement party, he deflected praise and shared credit with current and former school board members and staff. He noted their success with comment that "together we did good work."

The Federal Way School District has 22,500 students. Murphy believes all students, every last one of them, deserve a chance to succeed. Even if that means taking each child one by one and providing the personal guidance each needs.

In Murphy's world, "all means all."

If he needs to take children to the community, he will do it. If it means taking the community to the children, he will do it.

He will use that well polished Irish charm to ensure that the "kids get what they need."

As one speaker commented, "How often do you see a 6-foot-5 Irishman?"

Well, probably not very often, but Murphy isn't just a towering physical presence. He is a man of honor and integrity. Frankly, they don't come along all that often.

Murphy believes "I'm a better person for having worked here."

That may be, but we are a better community for having known you and learned from your lessons and service.

Like many, I consider Tom a friend and will miss his wit and wisdom. Next week, he retires and starts the next chapter of his life.

At the same time, we will welcome Rob Neu as our new superintendent. It will be an adjustment, as Neu has to fill some very big size 14's.

Goodbye and good luck to Tom and Rosemary Murphy. Welcome aboard, Rob. We look forward to seeing where you will lead us.

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