Ryan Murphy ’22 channeled his love for SPS into a leadership role with the School’s iconic club system
As a lifelong Harry Potter fan, Ryan Murphy ’22 says he doesn’t take his St. Paul’s School/Hogwarts analogies lightly. But the first time he walked into the Athletic and Fitness Center five years ago and saw the banners for the SPS athletic and rowing clubs hanging over the atrium, bathed in the sunlight that was streaming through the AFC’s glass roof, the comparison felt inevitable. “It was very Harry Potter-esque,” Murphy recalls. “I looked up at all these banners, and all the history they represented, and just thought, ‘wow.’ And that stuck with me as a unique aspect of the School.”
That moment proved the beginning of what became a long and fruitful connection for Murphy to the School’s iconic club system, which dates back to the earliest decades of SPS. Developed in the 1880s in response to then-Rector Henry Coit’s decision that inter-form athletic contests — to that point the basis of athletic competition at SPS — should be discontinued, a group of Fifth and Sixth Form boys came up with the idea of organizing the School into three athletic clubs that would include every student in every form.
Until the 1960s, these clubs — Delphian, Isthmian and Old Hundred — were the primary structure through which students participated in athletics, but fell out of favor as opportunities for athletes to compete on interscholastic teams emerged. In 2011, the Sixth Form renewed interest in the clubs and students’ affiliation with them, expanding opportunities for competition to include community and academic achievements and developing a points system that now leads to the awarding of the Form of 2011 Club Cup each Spring Term. As the official scorekeeper, keeper of scores (yes, that’s his actual title) for the 2021-22 Club Cup Competition, Murphy announced the winning club at the last Chapel of the academic year — and received as big a cheer from his schoolmates for his tireless work as Isthmian did for bringing home the cup.
Serving as scorekeeper was a goal that Murphy had held since his first year at SPS. A self-described natural learner and “total nerd for this kind of thing,” Murphy had immersed himself in learning about the School’s athletics history —particularly hockey, the sport his father, Humanities Teacher Danny Murphy, coaches — not long after his family joined the SPS community in 2017. The history of the SPS club system emerged as a natural extension of that study. Last summer, as he prepared for his term as scorekeeper, Murphy sat down with the Excel spreadsheet he had inherited from his predecessor and set about expanding on it, documenting not just each club’s points for various activities, but the history of the club system and club cup, the rules of the club system and club cup, scoring rules, club committee members — and more.
It’s the first time the club system and cup have been so thoroughly documented, but Murphy is quick to deflect credit for that — and for the increased engagement of his fellow students with their clubs through friendly competitions (think dodgeball, corn hole) one Saturday per month. “I don’t by any means take all of the credit,” he says of the nine-page document that he handed to Skyler Sharfman ’23, his 2022-23 successor, at the beginning of June. “I wrote up my little history piece from articles I found in the Horae, and my understanding of the club history and the scoring rules — a lot of that is just common knowledge that I thought needed to be written down. I feel like every official scorekeeper adds a little bit and changes a little bit. My goal was to create a stronger foundation for the next person, and maybe to inspire a little bit of school spirit.”
Inspiring school spirit is one of Murphy’s stronger suits. A Sixth Form Chapel warden, Murphy describes greeting his fellow students at the Chapel door with a smile at the beginning of each day as one of his favorite SPS experiences. He also did play-by-play commentary for the boys varsity hockey team — both home and away games — as well as announcements for football and selected other events during his time at SPS. At Graduation on June 5, he was recognized with The Reverend Dr. Everett P. Smith Prize, awarded each year “to the student who has contributed conspicuously to the morale and well-being of the School, its students or the community.”
Murphy is headed to Notre Dame in the fall and includes his family among what he will miss most about SPS. “You hear all the time that the school is not the place, it’s the people — and I disagree with that, actually,” he continues. “I think it’s both.” Noting that as a faculty kid, he was one of the few students left on the grounds when COVID-19 arrived in March 2020, he describes the spirit of the School that remained palpable to him even in the quiet and isolation of those early pandemic days. “That’s something that for me goes beyond the idea of history or traditions — it’s just the sense of the place as a living, breathing thing that comes out in so many different aspects of the school.”