In the Beginning…

On June 8, 1955, the parents of Bob Murray (BC ’59) received a letter that read, “Your son Robert, has passed the entrance examination to the High School conducted by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. Registration will be held in Visitation School, Paramus, on Saturday, June 25th, between 9:30 A.M. and 12 Noon. At this time a registration fee of $10.00 and the first month’s tuition of $20.00 will be required.” So began Murray’s career as a member of Bergen Catholic’s first graduating class, and one of the school’s most active and esteemed alumni.

There’s Bergen Catholic tradition in his family, too. Bob and Fran, his wife of 53 years, have a son Rob who graduated in 1984. Nephews John Murray and Kevin and Bryan Tennant graduated in 1980, 1990, and 1996, respectively. Bob’s mother, Helen, even helped start the Mothers Club.

Things were very different when the first freshmen began their studies in 1955. As construction began at the school’s permanent location, the young men occupied four rooms at Visitation Grammar School in Paramus. For their sophomore year, they moved to what is now the north wing of the current facility, but even that space wasn’t completed. “The rest of the school was still under construction and they were building it around us,” said Murray. “There was no heat, so they brought in potbelly stoves which would occasionally puff back and fill the room with black smoke. When blackboards and floor tiles were installed, we had to carry our desks out into the hall to continue the class.” That first class graduated
112 students.

In 1975, Murray was asked by Br. Peter Lawrence, to whom he was very close, to give a speech at the ceremony commemorating Bergen Catholic’s 20th anniversary. Brother told him to put together a table of his classmates and to get someone from the class of 1960, celebrating their 15th reunion, to put together two. After the speech, founding principal, Br. Eugene McKenna, told Murray that he needed him to start an alumni association and Murray replied, “I’ll help in any way I can.” McKenna’s response? I don’t want you to help. I want you to DO it.

“That’s just the way the Brothers worked in those days,” said Murray, “which was great, and one of the reasons the school is so successful.” As they built a database of over 1,000 graduates, the association began making plans for the class of 1959’s 20th reunion.Murray graduated from Iona College in 1963 and spent 20 years with IBM. He then founded an IBM distributorship in northern New Jersey and in 1991 went into the financial services business, dealing with large, institutional clients. He hasn’t completely retired, he says, and he’s still involved to a small extent in that business. He’s still involved with the school, as well. There are plans for a 60th reunion next year and according to Murray, letters have already gone out. They’re hoping that 30 to 40 classmates will attend.Asked how he thinks being part of Bergen Catholic’s first graduating class, founding the alumni association, and staying in close touch with his classmates has affected his life and molded him as a person, Murray paused for a moment. “Every year the Brothers would have an orientation for the incoming freshmen and their parents. It was very formal, and they would say, ‘You send us your boy and we will send you back a man.’ They accomplished that. And, 60 years later, my closest friends are all guys I went to high school with.”