Dr. Patricia H. Murrell Retires — Her Impact Reverberates

by Kelly Tait

Dr. Pat Murrell has retired after setting a continuing standard of excellence in judicial branch education. Her work enriched the professional development of more than 4,000 judges and other court personnel throughout the United States, Canada, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Anyone who went through one of Dr. Pat Murrell’s judicial education programs came away with both professional and personal growth. On a broad scale, she instilled the principles of adult development and learning in judicial branch education. On a more personal level, she ensured participants’ deep consideration of the importance of competence and character. Her significant impact on program participants was multiplied by the participants implementing what they learned, creating ongoing ripple effects in the justice system.

Dr. Murrell started working at the University of Memphis in 1970, becoming the Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education there in 1988. Her responsibilities included directing the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education (LIJE) and the Institute for Faculty Excellence in Judicial Education (IFEJE) from 1989-2007.

The Institutes provided intensive, experiential seminars that fully involved the participants—judicial educators, judges, and court staff, among others—and prepared them to share their expertise and assume leadership roles in their organizations and jurisdictions. Dr. Murrell fostered a hands-on approach with an emphasis on values, innovation, and application.

The Leadership Institute in Judicial Education workshops explored adult development and adult education: how we learn, how we change across the adult lifecycle, and how we become more complex thinkers. Participants, using a team approach, built on these foundations to develop innovative projects that continue to benefit the justice system.

In the Institute for Faculty Excellence in Judicial Education, Dr. Murrell and her team taught participants how to design and develop effective educational sessions in an active, supportive learning environment. The Institute included a strong mentoring component. Excellence in professional and personal development was a hallmark of these programs.  

Dr. Murrell received numerous awards for her work in judicial education including the State Justice Institute’s Howell Heflin Award, the National Center for State Courts’ Warren Burger Award, and the American Law Institute/American Bar Association’s Harrison Tweed Award. A tribute to Dr. Murrell’s accomplishments in the field of judicial branch education and as a professor at the University of Memphis was held on January 10, 2014.

The effects of Dr. Pat Murrell’s dedicated, heart-felt work are profound and lasting. A lifelong learner as well as teacher, she continues to have a positive impact on those around her even in retirement.

“The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that the teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living require.” ~Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach