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Catherine H. ‘Nora’ Murray, career educator who nurtured student leadership, dies – Baltimore Sun

Catherine H. “Nora” Murray, a career educator who had served as a regional counselor for Baltimore County Public Schools Student Councils and previously held a similar position at Carroll County Public Schools, died of complications from a sarcoma on September 14 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Sykesville resident was 58.

“Her humility comes to mind first and that she didn’t need to be up front. She has worked hard behind the scenes to empower every student,” said Olivia Keithley, who met Ms Murray for the first time in 2008 at Hereford Middle School, and is now Chair of the Board of the Maryland Association of Student Councils.

“She was incredibly caring and kind, and she gave us support, advice and mentorship,” Ms Keithley said. “She loved people and bonded very easily with others. She was a fighter and committed to the students.

Tres Mr McMichael was a student at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson when he began working with Ms Murray.

“She was light when there was light and she was light when there was darkness. We shared an office and worked closely together,” said Mr. McMichael, who is now head of the impact program. social and civic alliances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

“I was a senior in high school and the first student president she worked with at student councils in Baltimore County, and she came to see us when we were in the middle of a change, and when she came, she didn’t tried to take over, she trusted me and the students. She gave us power. He was a person who listened with all his heart. She was the person on whose shoulder I could always cry.

Former Catherine Honora Kestler, daughter of Marion Lee Kestler Sr., who worked for the National Security Agency and Catherine Honora Haller Kestler, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and lived in Morrell Park before moving in 1975 to Sykesville.

Ms. Murray, known as “Nora”, was in the first graduating class in 1982 from Liberty High School where she had been an outstanding softball player and All-Carroll County catcher.

She attended Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and while trying out for the Lock Haven baseball team, broke four fingers, which ended her hopes of playing college softball. .

“I haven’t found my identity. My grades plummeted,” she explained in a 1997 Carroll County Times interview. After leaving college, she worked as a telephone operator for the National Security Agency, then spent seven years as a as a planner and office manager for two carpet companies.

After enrolling at Carroll Community College and earning an associate’s degree, she entered what is now known as Towson University in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1997 in health education and then earned his master’s degree at Towson.

She returned to Liberty High School where she taught health education and coached varsity softball. In 1998, she became the school’s student government advisor, and during her tenure expanded the program.

During her first year as a counselor, she took her school to Maryland Association of Student Council events, and six years later received MASC’s Counselor of the Year award in recognition of his outstanding leadership.

During her tenure at Liberty, the SGA received the Felix Simon Award from MASC in 2006. She left Liberty in 2008 when she was appointed Executive Director of MASC where she supported the fall conference, legislative session , convention and conference in Region 2 of the organization.

“In 2009, she inspired and received the Catherine Nora Murray Unsung Hero Award in recognition of her selfless service to the students she supported,” according to a biographical profile of her life.

After leaving MASC in 2009, she returned to Carroll County as Youth Development and Student Service-Learning Coordinator and Advisor to the Carroll County Student Government Association, a position she held until ‘in 2013.

The following year, she joined the Baltimore County Public Schools as Regional Councilor for Baltimore County Student Councils, where she worked diligently to establish the Baltimore County Junior Councils.

“Within a year of being with us, she got the students to vote for whoever was their representative on the Baltimore County School Board,” McMichael said. “She was always present, so dedicated, and there. She always pushed us to challenge the system and create the world we dreamed of.

After graduating from Carver, Ms Murray brought Mr McMichael back to teach a class on anti-racism.

“I’ve only had three teachers I’ve told I love and she was one of them,” Mr McMichael said.

“Over the past eight years, Nora has made a tremendous difference in the lives of students at BCPS through her work as a program specialist overseeing student leadership, system-wide volunteers, and life-long learning. student service,” wrote Diana L. Spencer, communications manager for BCPS. , in a tribute to Mrs. Murray.

“Under his leadership, the number of students involved in Baltimore County Student Council general meetings more than doubled; a new Baltimore County Junior Council was created to foster student leadership at the college level; a new Council of Selected Students (BOSS) was created to involve even more students in leadership activities; students engaged in equity training.

“Nora made sure the students got the resources they needed, which is why I’ve always called her my Fairy Godmother,” Ms Keithley said. “Equity was very important to her, and she made sure students had a voice at the table. She was committed to it. »

Ms Spencer credited Ms Murray with doing “personal outreach to increase the number and diversity of participating schools; and the school system changed from a committee choosing the student member of the school board to a student member selected by the votes of all middle and high school students. She worked hard to incorporate more student learning into the curriculum and to improve the way volunteers trained and celebrated at BCPS. The list continues. And she did all of this while battling cancer.

She had not retired when she died.

In 2008, Ms Murray was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare tumorous cancer of the bones and connective tissues such as fat and muscle, and was given three to five years to live. Every few months she had to have scans to see if any new tumors had grown in her body.

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“You just plan life three months at a time,” she told the Carroll County Times in 2011. “I’m in year three of my diagnosis, but all that matters is that I feel well and that I have a great team of doctors, so that’s all to stay positive.

Ms Murray joined doctors and other sarcoma patients for the annual End Sarcoma Walk which raised funds for a grant for a doctor to do sarcoma research.

“It’s definitely at rock bottom when it comes to funding because it’s scarce,” Ms Murray explained in the 2011 interview.

“She was also definitely a fighter when it came to her cancer,” Ms Keithley said. “She was stubborn. She didn’t give up. She was a fighter. »

Ms Murray, who was an avid Orioles fan, enjoyed spending time on beaches and lakes. She was also an animal lover.

A Christian burial mass was offered Wednesday at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Randallstown.

She is survived by her husband of 32 years, Daniel J. Murray, electrician; his parents, Marion L. Kestler Sr. and Catherine Honora Haller Kestler of Sykesville; a twin brother, Marion Lee Kestler Jr. of Leesburg, Virginia; and several nieces and nephews.

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