When Cal State Fullerton Class of 2021 graduate Aileen Murphy walked across the commencement stage this week, she carried on the Titan family legacy. She also donned a cap that read “For My Titan in Heaven.”
Her late father, Gene Murphy, was the university’s football head coach from 1980 through the program’s end in 1992. Her mother, Christine McCarthy, worked on campus for 32 years in various roles, including as director of athletic academic services, and now serves as treasurer of Academic Professionals of California.
“I will say it was a very bittersweet day graduating from the university where my parents met and only having one parent there to see it,” said Murphy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. “But I know my dad is cheering me on from heaven.”
While her mother and boyfriend watched as she walked across the commencement stage, Murphy described it as an “amazing” experience. Graduation Day culminated years of hard work, struggles and dedication to earn a college degree, especially during a pandemic year.
“It was extremely important for me to go back to campus and walk, even if it meant that it wouldn’t be like a normal college graduation. Participating in the in-person stage walk on Tuesday wasn’t just for me, I did it for my mom, too. School has always been hard for me and I can’t tell you how many times I begged my mom to let me quit, but she always pushed me to keep going and helped me in any way that she could,” Murphy said.
Murphy transferred to CSUF from Fullerton College, where her father was football head coach from 1993 to 2007. After retiring, he was a consultant with the program until his death in 2011 when she was 14.
“I chose to attend CSUF because it was where I needed to be. It felt like home the minute I stepped on campus — and I knew I wasn’t going to have that feeling anywhere else.”
While her dad was not here to see her graduate, she shared that he’ll always be with her in her life and future career.
“I miss him every day, especially during milestones like this in my life. But I know he is up there smiling down at me, prouder than ever.”
About Cal State Fullerton: The largest university in the CSU and the only campus in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton offers 110 degree programs, and Division 1 athletics. Recognized as a national model for supporting student success, CSUF excels with innovative, high-impact educational practices, including faculty-student collaborative research, study abroad and competitive internships. Our vibrant and diverse campus is a primary driver of workforce and economic development in the region. CSUF is a top public university known for its success in supporting first-generation and underrepresented students, and preparing all students to become leaders in the global marketplace. Our It Takes a Titan campaign, a five-year $200 million comprehensive fundraising initiative, prioritizes investments in academic innovation, student empowerment, campus transformation and community enrichment. Visit fullerton.edu.