Hank and Shirley Murphy

Honorary Degrees

San Diego State University

Hank and Shirley Murphy are widely recognized and respected tribal elders both within their respective tribal communities and nationwide. Hank Murphy was born on the Sycuan Reservation in El Cajon, California, and is an enrolled member of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation; Shirley Murphy was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe.

As proud Native Americans, they both volunteered to protect America through service in the military, with Mrs. Murphy having served 11 years in the U.S. Navy medical corps. Mr. Murphy volunteered at age 17 for the U.S. Marine Corps and served with distinction for eight years including combat in the Korean War. They retired honorably and have maintained their ties to the military, especially the veteran community.

Shirley Murphy has dedicated her life to the service of others, including through the healthcare and wellness sectors. She has conducted extensive research and training on indigenous knowledge and its application to educational curriculum, career counseling, community development and life coaching. She has brought awareness and focus on the intergenerational trauma suffered by Native Americans over the last two centuries. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy local charities and has been recognized by many, including as a Woman of Distinction by the Salvation Army.

Hank Murphy has served his tribe in progressively responsible roles, including multiple terms on the tribal council. In 1974, he founded the Sycuan Fire Department, one of the first tribal fire departments in the United States, and the first in San Diego County to offer advanced life support (ALS) paramedic service to the East County region. He served as fire chief for over 30 years bringing numerous awards and commendations to the Sycuan Fire Department. Most notably, he established the elite Sycuan-BIA Golden Eagle Hotshot Crew, the only such crew in the state of California.

Mr. and Mrs. Murphy founded the Southern Indian Health Clinic in 1982, serving the medical needs of numerous tribal reservations and their members as well as the surrounding off-reservation population in San Diego County. They also spearheaded the creation of the Sycuan Medical Clinic and the Sycuan Education Department. 

In recognition of their selfless service to others, prominent leadership roles within Indian Country, and numerous professional and civic accomplishments, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon Hank and Shirley Murphy the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.