Contributing to the Conversation
Bill Murphy, Jr. '88 in print and online
"How much time do you have?” That’s what Bill Murphy Jr. ’88 responds when people ask him what he does for a living—and with good reason. He’s a journalist and a contributing editor to Inc. Magazine, where he writes a monthly column as well as a daily newsletter. He’s written two books under his name and ghostwritten others. He publishes Understandably, a newsletter for entrepreneurs and businesspeople on how media works. And by his own account, he is currently “neck deep in a media technology startup.”
That’s just lately. In past professional iterations, Murphy was a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and served in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. He spent three years as the lead assistant to legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, which included a stint in Iraq, and another three at Some Spider, a company where he “learned the dark arts of audience development in digital media.”
Murphy’s career may be hard to pin down, but not it’s origin point. Without question, that was Bishop Feehan High School.
The Road to Attleboro
Murphy grew up in Cumberland, R.I., the oldest of five. He forged a path to Feehan, which his younger siblings—James ’90, Chris ’92, Seana, ’96, Michaela ’98—all followed. He made friends he’s still in touch with 30-odd years later. While all of that is nice, it’s not what makes Feehan special to him. That role is reserved for the English department.
“Chris Servant was the first person who told me I had a talent for writing,” he recalls. “‘If you work at it, you could do this for a living,’ he told me. I took creative writing with Terry Rankin. He had me read a couple of my stories out loud to the class, which was an important moment for me. Catherine Sheehy was my journalism teacher. We read All the President’s Men and then watched the movie. That was when I remember first becoming interested in journalism.” (Of course, he had no idea that he would be working for Bob Woodward 20 years later).
Outside of the English department, he credits biology with Sister Rose Angela as being foundational. “She was very, very tough. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was good to have someone who was that tough and that structured,” he says.
A Formative Experience
Murphy has always been a restless entrepreneur. After graduating from Fairfield University, he worked for the New Haven Register for a few years before going to the University of Connecticut School of Law. While in law school, he started a publishing company that he eventually sold. The experience proved formative. In 2010, Holt and Company published his book, The Intelligent Entrepreneur, which chronicles the journey of three Harvard Business School entrepreneurs.
He enjoys the wide variety of his work and the fact that he is constantly learning. “I write probably 1,000 articles a year. I liken it to working out—it’s a pain while you’re doing it but seeing the results are great.” And while he cut his teeth in print journalism, he appreciates the immediate feedback of digital media. “With a book, it often takes at least a year to know if it’s resonating,” he concludes. “When you publish something online, you know quickly if you’re contributing to a conversation or if you’re out there alone.”
Rebecca Melesciuc Austria’s excellent Antarctic adventure
The continent of Antarctica may be as far south as you can go, but a four-month stint there as a traveling pharmacist left Rebecca Melesciuc Austria feeling on top of the world. “I loved it,” says Austria of her time at McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic research hubUnited States’ Antarctic research hub. “I enjoyed absorbing the culture. It’s so diverse, with people from every walk of life. There are scientists at the peak of their careers, kids who have just graduated from college working as janitors, retirees working as line cooks. There are all these different people who bring so much to the table.”
A skeleton crew of 150 people keeps McMurdo running year round; during the summer, however, the station blossoms into a town of 1,000. “It’s like a college town crossed with a mining town,” she explains. “I was surprised by how much was going on. There were science lectures, fitness activities and lots of clubs. I volunteered as a tour guide to take people out to see the new seal pups.”
“I thought it would be a big wilderness experience, but it wasn’t,” she continues. “The longest hike from the station is only six miles.”
McMurdo is 800 kilometers from the South Pole, where the U.S. has another, smaller station. Austria had a chance to travel to the remote outpost to do a drug inventory. “I was only supposed to be there for 24 hours, but I ended up staying for five days because of the weather.”
Traveling to Antarctica had been Austria’s dream since she attended the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy. “I read a blog about a pharmacist who went to work in Antarctica and thought that I’d like to do that. Then in 2011, URI sent me to Dillingham, Alaska, for my final internship. I met my first traveling pharmacist at the hospital there. That’s when becoming a traveler became a career goal for me.”
Austria actually spent five years in Alaska working at rural hospitals, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “I fell in love with Alaska,” she reflects. “The community I worked with was predominantly Alaskan Native; they are so respectful.” Alaska is also where she met her husband, Stephen, an engineering officer in the Army. The two started a new life together when they wed in 2016, but Antarctica was always in the back of her mind. “When we learned that Stephen would be deployed to Afghanistan, I figured now was the time to do it,” she says.
Now on the other side of her adventure and back in the States, Austria is happy to be reunited with her husband, who is currently stationed in Colorado. She says she missed fresh fruits and vegetables (which are scarce at the station) and sunsets: Summer is the season of the “Midnight Sun” in Antarctica, where the sun never drops below the horizon.
Austria was also looking forward to traveling back to Massachusetts to pick up her beloved dog, a Corgi named Timber, who stayed with her parents in Wrentham while she was away. Her trip to the area provides a perfect opportunity for Austria to have another reunion—this one with Bishop Feehan. “They’ve invited me to speak to students about the experience in a ’Rock Talk,” she says. “I can’t wait!”