Spotlight: Frances Sibley

Frances Sibley’s connection to Murphy High School runs deep. The class of ’59 graduate returned to her alma mater in 1971 to teach and continued to serve there in a manifold of capacities until 2012. It would be hard to find one student who didn’t come to know and love her during her 41-year tenure as matriarch of Murphy High. Even in her retirement, Mrs. Sibley is still closely connected with the school, acting as a watchdog of sorts to see that the campus is restored to its pre-tornado glory.

How did you first come to love the school?

I went to Murphy and so did my siblings. I graduated in 1959, when Elvis was king. I came back to teach reading in 1971; it was a three-year program. Then I became the registrar, and while there, I began to work with the coaches and athletes dealing with their eligibility. I later became a resource officer and kept my eligibility job.

What was your favorite role?

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In the early ’80s I had the privilege of helping gather material to put Murphy on the National Register of Historic Places, and the alumni became so interested that I became the liaison between alumni and the school. I began reunion tours in 1982, while also being the events coordinator. I gave 500 tours until I retired in 2012. I also helped form the alumni association and put out the first alumni directory.

Of all the things I did at Murphy High School, that role gave me the greatest joy. I met so many people that lived all over the world and learned so many things that went on at Murphy during their time there. When we started restoring the campus in 1982, the class of 1926 came out and helped the principal and I choose the original paint color for the outside of the building.

What are a few of your most treasured memories at the school?

Being on stage performing in an opera as a student. Seeing my own children graduate with honors. Seeing my grandson play football at Murphy; he was the third generation.

What’s in store for Murphy’s future?

I hope buildings will be renovated, students will return to campus soon, and outstanding programs will continue. 

Why do you think Murphy has such a unique, strong school spirit?

We were the first. Our mother school was Barton Academy, established in 1852. We still have a “B” on the class ring to commemorate that.

What are you doing in your retirement?

I work on the hospitality committee at Spring Hill Avenue United Methodist Church. And I spent the summer swimming. My husband said I needed a summer, so we went swimming every day at my daughter’s pool or the Gulf.

What was your favorite subject as a student and why?

Other than speech and drama, I loved history. I think that’s one reason I enjoyed gathering information for the National Register of Historic Places. It’s fascinating to dig into the past and  and see how it relates to today.

Looking back, what do you find most rewarding about your time at Murphy?

I have such wonderful memories of when I was a student. I’ve met so many great people. A lot of parents, kids and the faculty are really like family. I love to see Murphy grads grow through their experiences there. This is why we do what we do. 

text by Emily Hill • photo by Matt Gates

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