Dr. Tom

Thomas E. Murray, Ph. D. is on the faculty at the University of Central Florida.  He and his wife cathy are the founders of Think About the Children.  Dr. Tom is a veteran of the Viet Nam War serving with the 108th Artillery, 3/5 Armored Cavalry and the 22oth Air Recon.  His time was primarily on the DMZ in Dong Ha and Hue/Phu Bai.

Dr. Tom got into education after a career in the health club business as an owner/manager.  He chose to teach the most challenging students simply because he felt they needed his help the most.  His first teaching assignment was in Pinellas County, Florida in a DropOut Prevention school.  This school called PTEC was  filled with students who had been thrown out of their zoned school or had a baby that needed the high quality day care available at PTEC.   Dr. Tom was shocked at the apathy found in these students.  He started his Ph. D.with the goal of finding one thing in each class each week that would help him reach this population. 

In his second year one of his courses was discontinued and he was offered the opportunity to pick any one course to teach.  During his Ph. D. service requirement in one of his classes he observed a unique course.  This semster long course on the “Hisotry of the Viet Nam War” was very interesting.  First, it had highly energized students eager to learn about Dr. Tom’s war.  Secondly, they used local veterans to teach students about their own experiences.  Third, the class used music, photos and video to connect the students to the real life elements of this class.

The students at PTEC became so enthralled with this course they eventually published four books of Oral History and created a web site that still can be found today at www.fcit.usf.edu/vietnam  During his last year of teaching high school Dr. Tom took this project and his teaching skills to Bayside High School, Pinellas County’s first stand alone Juvenile Justice school.  The school was for those being released from prison.  These students could attend Bayside until graduation or return to their zoned school after a year.  These students also thrived in this course.

After his last year of teaching high school Dr. Tom moved to the university level.  His focus is at-risk students and student publishing.  One way he works to fund Think About the Children is by helping schools or teachers understand how to create student published books.  In return the schools, teachers and students engage in a fund raiser for Think About the Children.  Often the student publishing is connected to Viet Nam in some way, so the fund raising is a logical connection.

Every penny of any fund raising goes directly to the children of Viet Nam with no expenses.  The students get to see exactly what their fund raising did.  The ability of students to see thier learning connected to themselves, their community and the world around them makes school so meaningful it engages the most difficult students.  At this point Dr. Tom has published over a dozen books with students from first grade to high school.

Contact Tom at tmuuray@mail.ucf.edu

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