Howard Payne University alumnus redefines versatility
BROWNWOOD – August 22, 2011 –Lt. Col. Daniel H. Murray’s pilgrimage has been more than circuitous, with more side roads than maps have room for. He’d pay full price for bona fide adventures, even if requirements include strict training regimens and envelope-pushing only dreamed of by most mortals.
Now chief of aerospace medicine for the 30th Medical Group at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the 43-year-old phenomenon’s “itch” for the incredible is documented. He was much the talk of the campus during his undergraduate years (1991-1995) at Howard Payne University in Brownwood. There, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, chemistry and interdisciplinary studies.
“Without any doubt, Dan was the most versatile college student I’ve ever known,” said Dr. Don Newbury, HPU chancellor, who spent 40 years in higher education. “When word gets around that a student rides a bicycle 3,400 miles from his home in Canada to Texas, he’s immediately the topic of campus conversations. No one realized at the time that his unlikely feats would number far into the double digits before his graduation.”
Some may question his 100-miles-per-day biking regimen, wondering if he got lost on his arduous route. Not really. He decided to begin in Vancouver, then swing by California to run in the San Francisco marathon before heading his bike toward Texas.
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, he spent his growing-up years in Toronto, where his father, Dr. Robert Murray, was a long-time member of the faculty at the University of Toronto Medical School. Following in his dad’s footsteps wasn’t on Dan’s radar early on. He, too, wanted to help others, and before pre-med study, he considered a career in physical therapy or personal training. First, though, he wanted to earn “well-rounded” experiences – the kind so often noted by medical school admission committees.
Consider these academic accomplishments, impressive by any standards: Outstanding Student in Physics, as well as Outstanding Student in Organic Chemistry; winner, Physical Science Departmental Award; recipient, Hatton W. Sumners and Noel W. Cowan Scholarships; Dean’s List, 1991-1995; All-American Scholar, 1993-1994; HPU Outstanding Young Graduate, 2004; National Collegiate Natural Science Awardee; National Dean’s List 1992-1993-1994; and Collegiate Who’s Who, 1993.
Outside the classroom, his exploits remain legendary. For starters, he took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) on a Saturday afternoon in Abilene, Texas, where earlier in the day he ran in the 5,000-meter event at the conference track meet. (He also ran in 800-meter and 1,500-meter races on the conference championship track teams of ’93 and ’94.)
Check this out for versatility: He played 2nd chair trumpet in the marching and concert bands; portrayed the “client” in school drama The Imaginary Invalid and was a member of three honor societies – Gamma Beta Phi, Alpha Lambda Delta and Beta Beta Beta, a society he founded. Dan also was a member of Sigma Delta Kappa fraternity and served three years as secretary of the Chemical Society.
Further, he was a cheerleader all four years, and was on the first team in HPU history to earn a berth in national competition. Head cheerleader for two years, he was a three-time All-American and Top Gun Stunter.
He was a museum guide and flag bearer, and in water sports at Lake Brownwood was superior in slaloming, wake boarding, skiing and parasailing.
“Imprinted in my memory are a couple of undertakings which I would have vetoed in a heartbeat,” Newbury said. “But Dan didn’t ask, and really, I didn’t have veto power anyway.”
He was the first person in history to descend “Thrill Hill” on roller blades. His speed on multiple occasions exceeded 50 MPH on the 1,000-foot stretch of a narrow road near the campus that dropped 75 feet.
Upon graduation, he was accepted by the Texas A&M University School of Medicine. There, one of his textbooks was authored by his father. He received his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) diploma in 1999, then completed his residency in family medicine in 2002. Honors included his being named chief resident and resident of the year.
Then came service as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. There, he completed additional study leading to a Master of Public Health degree, a part of the residency in Aerospace Medicine from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Recently, he was one of eight officers graduating from residency in aerospace medicine. At the San Antonio ceremony, he was host for the commencement speaker, Lt. Gen. Bruce Green, surgeon general of the Air Force. This was the final event for such training at a facility which has been operated for almost 100 years.
Lt. Col. Murray is married to the former Melissa Wertz. They have two sons – Kaid, 4, and Ian, 2.
Photo caption: Lt. Col. Daniel H. Murray visits with Dr. Don Newbury, HPU chancellor.