Evelyn F. Murphy Named Recipient of 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award
Evelyn F. Murphy, the first woman to hold constitutional office in Massachusetts, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Duke Graduate School’s Distinguished Alumni Award. She will be honored at a dinner on May 9 and during The Graduate School’s hooding ceremony on May 10.
Born in in Ancón, Panama, and raised in Winthrop, Massachusetts, Murphy earned a BA in mathematics from Duke and an MA in economics from Columbia before returning to Duke for her Ph.D. in economics. Since earning her Ph.D. in 1965, she has received eleven honorary degrees and more than one hundred national, state, and local awards for her work as a public servant, corporate executive, scholar, author, and advocate.
Murphy received national recognition in the late 1970s for leading Massachusetts’ efforts to oppose offshore oil and gas exploration and to create state heritage parks. As the state’s secretary of environmental affairs, she sued to stop the United States Interior Department from allowing drilling in the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank. The case went to the US Supreme Court and became the first successful attempt to block energy exploration in the outer continental shelf.
From 1983 to 1985, Murphy served as Massachusetts’ secretary of economic affairs, creating policies that helped spur the state to prosperity. In 1986, she was elected lieutenant governor. Before her election, Massachusetts had not had a female governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the commonwealth, attorney general, treasurer, auditor or US Senator.
After campaigning for governor in 1990, Murphy became an executive for a New England law firm while also serving as a corporate director for several financial institutions and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. She later became an executive vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield and founded the company’s HealthCare Policy Institute.
In 1998, Murphy left Blue Cross Blue Shield and took up another cause: equal pay for women. She became a visiting scholar at Brandeis and worked on a book, Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men — and What to Do about It.
After her book was published in 2005, Murphy launched The WAGE Project Inc., a national grassroots activist organization working to end pay discrimination against women. She also began speaking around the country and testified at Congressional hearings on the issue. On January 28, 2009, President Barack Obama invited her to the White House for the signing of his first bill — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expanded the right to sue over pay discrimination.
Murphy is currently president of The WAGE Project and a resident scholar on leave in the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis. She serves on the boards of a number of organizations and has remained active in politics. She worked with the White House staffs of the Carter and Clinton administrations and currently helps shape public policy by working with elected officials and testifying before Congress.
The Distinguished Alumni Award, established in 2013, is given annually to a Duke Ph.D. graduate who has distinguished him or herself in service to their fields of endeavor, to Duke, or to the betterment of humanity. Nominees must have received their Ph.D. from Duke at least ten years ago.