Please remember in your prayers Kathleen Boyd, who served as secretary to Monsignor Terrence Murphy for more than four decades.
Boyd died April 8 in South Bend, Indiana. She moved to Indiana upon retiring in 2004 after the death of Murphy, who served as St. Thomas president from 1966 to 1991 and as chancellor of the university from 1991 to 2004.
She started at St. Thomas in 1962, working part time in the housing office. She became secretary to Murphy that November, when President James Shannon appointed him executive vice president, and she worked for Murphy until his death. She also was secretary to Father Dennis Dease during his first year (1991-92) as president.
“Kathleen was a godsend that year,” Dease said. “To me she seemed almost omniscient. She knew everybody, everything and where all the bodies were buried. She helped get me through that first year. I have always considered myself to be in her debt.”
Boyd had a wry sense of humor and could be fiercely protective of her bosses’ appointment calendars, always careful not to overschedule them.
“She was so precise in everything she did that she was intimidating until you got to know her,” said Mary Theuer, who was Dease’s secretary from 1992 to 2005. “She’d tell people, ‘You can’t come in here,’ meaning the president’s office. Father (John) Malone once stood on his head until she let him see Monsignor Murphy.”
Malone, who retired last year as vice president for mission, laughed when asked about the incident. “It’s true,” he said, “although I was up against a wall.”
Boyd told St. Thomas magazine in a 1991 profile that she appreciated Murphy’s “low-key” nature and his skill in handling people.
“A successful president must have a real understanding of many different types of people, since he deals with every facet of university life, as well as with the public,” she said. “I think the job is difficult and demanding.”
During the magazine interview, the phone interrupted Boyd several times. She always had a soft, dignified and measured greeting, “The President’s Office,” but on this occasion her serious tone deserted her as she laughed and engaged in a lively conversation. “That was my new boss,” she said after hanging up, referring to Dease. How did she think he would fare as president?
“He will be very good,” she said. “He has all the right qualifications and gets along well with people.”
Dease and Murphy weren’t the only priests who recognized Boyd’s talents. In 1992, she received a papal honor, the Medallion of the Cross Majestic, from Pope John Paul II for “special recognition for those conspicuous in zeal and outstanding service on behalf of the Church and Pontiff.”
“This academic year has brought a new president,” said the citation that accompanied the honor. “In working with him, you are serving as a valuable link between the past and the present. We find it quite remarkable that you have found time to ‘break in’ a new president, and remain a secretary to Monsignor Murphy in his role as chancellor.
“That kind of accomplishment requires more than sheer efficiency; it is testimony to your dedication to this university and your commitment to the people who run it. We do not believe that a more deserving recipient could be found anywhere today.”
Boyd’s friends said perhaps her greatest strength was her faith. After she retired, her morning schedule was to go to Mass and return to her apartment to watch a television show hosted by Mother Angelica, a Franciscan nun who founded EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).
“Kathleen then would go through a stack of cards and slips of paper that she received from people asking her to pray for someone,” said Dolores Pishko, former secretary to Quentin Hietpas, retired senior vice president of external affairs. “That stack would be two inches thick, and she would sort through it and pray for people. At night, when she went to bed, she always had her rosary with her.”
Survivors include her daughter, Terry Marchetti of Indiana, four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Galvin, and a son, Timothy.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Friday, April 17, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Simple Traditions by Bradshaw, 671 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, and at the St. Thomas chapel one hour before the funeral service. Burial will be in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.