Moment of Peace, a Future Path Begun
Murphy AC’09 felt
out of control.
was the summer after her first year at Smith and she had
just handed her 3-year-old son, Jacob, to a surgeon at
Children’s Hospital in
Boston. Jacob was going in for heart surgery to correct
a malignant buildup of vascular tissue.
was the culmination of a difficult few months for Murphy,
who is from Petersham, Mass. After transferring to Smith
from Mount Wachusett Community College, she had barely
had a chance to sink into life here when her son’s
medical issues cropped up.
bringing Jacob to Henry Hayward Hospital in Gardner, Mass.,
to be treated for asthma, his doctor noticed a heart defect
while examining the boy’s lung x-rays. The defect
explained many of his problems—and could be fatal if
not corrected. Jacob was immediately reassigned to specialists
at Children’s Hospital. Numerous tests and doctors’ visits
“It was three months of turmoil,” recalled Murphy
recently of spring 2007. “It was really hard, just
terrible.” She considered suspending her studies but
opted to finish out the semester. “Maintaining concentration
was hard,” she said, “but attending classes was
actually a good diversion.”
in August, the day of Jacob’s surgery arrived.
Murphy restlessly roamed the hospital corridors while her
youngest son was in the operating room. An aspiring landscape
architect, she headed for the hospital’s Prouty Garden,
a colorful oasis hidden amid the hospital buildings and designed
by the legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted,
also the designer of the Smith College campus. There, she
found the solace she sought.
“It was like an epiphany in that garden,” Murphy
said. “It cleared my head.”
surgery went well. He returned home two days later and
his health began to change for the better almost immediately,
said Murphy. Now, at age 5, he is growing normally and
his prognosis is positive.
Murphy, who is preparing to walk across the stage and collect
her Smith diploma with her son’s medical
difficulties in the past, will never forget the moment she
found peace in that hospital garden.
“I left that garden feeling inspired,” she said. “I
said to myself, ‘I need to provide this for people—to
design spaces for people like me, where they can go to put
things in perspective.”
Murphy will leave Smith with a bachelor of fine arts degree
in studio art with a concentration in sculpture and a minor
in landscape architecture. She plans to pursue a career in
landscape design, in the footsteps of Olmsted, who provided
her inspiration. Her designs will emphasize species native
to the surroundings, she noted, and will incorporate the
existing landscape while retaining environmental sustainability.
Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar has given Murphy a sense
of self-confidence that she would likely not have obtained
following another path, she said. “It has
been extremely fulfilling going to Smith.”
During her first-year ordeal, Murphy was grateful for the
support of faculty and staff in the landscape studies and
other departments, as well as from her family (she has 10
siblings who live in the region).
path she takes from Smith, Murphy said, it began on the
day of her son’s
surgery, in a garden designed by Olmsted, in which she
found peace at the moment she needed it most.