Iowa Board of Regents

The Presidents: D.D. Murphy

Daniel D. Murphy, the second president of the Iowa State Board of Education (later renamed the Board of Regents, State of Iowa), served as a member of the Board from its inception in 1909 until 1925. He was elected president following the retirement of J.H. Trewin in 1916 and served in that capacity for the rest of his term. 

Murphy was born in Lafayette County, Wisconsin on August 22, 1862. His parents, John and Ellen Murphy, were Irish immigrants who came to the United States as young children. He enrolled in the State Normal School at Platteville Wisconsin (Now the University of Wisconsin – Platteville) and graduated in 1883. Degree in hand, Murphy headed to Guttenberg, Iowa later that year to serve a three-year stint as superintendent of Guttenberg public schools. During this time, Murphy read law and attended summer school. He earned a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Iowa in 1887.

He married Henrietta Johnsen, whose parents ranked among Guttenberg’s earliest settlers, on June 16, 1888 and moved to Elkader, Iowa that same year. He ran for and was elected Clayton County attorney in 1890 and 1892. The Murphys welcomed a son, Clarence, in 1890.

After serving successful terms on the Elkader school board, organizing and serving as vice president of Elkader State Bank, and serving two years as president of the Iowa State Bar Association, Murphy was appointed to serve a four-year term on the State Board of Education by Governor Beryl Carroll.  

Closely following his Board appointment, Murphy was selected as the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s fourth congressional district in 1910, losing by “about 200 votes” to six-term incumbent Gilbert Haugen.

As a member of the Board, Murphy found time to earn his Doctor of Laws degree from Grinnell, graduating in 1917. As president, he presided over the Board’s first transition of power following the retirement of Trewin. Being a former teacher, he lobbied the state to increase faculty salaries in 1916 but money became tight when the United States entered the First World War.

Murphy died May 30, 1931 at the age of 68. He was an advocate for the expansion of Iowa’s public universities during a time when expansion was often either not feasible or unpopular. Murphy’s attitude toward the Board’s role in shaping Iowa’s public higher education institutions stands in at least some contrast with his predecessor, and is perhaps best summed up in Murphy’s first letter of transmittal to Governor George W. Clarke on September 30, 1916:

“When this board made up its first legislative budget to be presented to the general assembly, it looked forward to the time when there would be an end of demand for new buildings and greatly increased appropriations – when, in short, these institutions would be finished, as it were. If there had been no expansion of the educational field, this would have come to pass; but we know now that the end is not yet – nor will be.”

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