High school campus to be named after sailor
An artist’s rendering of the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, where the campus will be renamed in honor of Patchogue sailor Lt. Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.

Patchogue-Medford School District images

High school campus to be named after sailor

Story By: PEGGY SPELLMAN HOEY
4/17/2014


The campus of Patchogue-Medford High School will be named in honor of alumnus U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy in a special ceremony next month.

The ceremony will be the highlight of Michael Murphy Day — on May 14, the date normally reserved for Pat-Med Pride Day, a tradition started four years ago to showcase the talents and achievements of students throughout the district. Murphy, a Patchogue native and 1994 graduate of the high school, was killed in an ambush with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in 2005. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism he showed exposing himself to enemy gunfire while calling for help for his fellow SEALs, ultimately saving the life of one.

Michael Murphy Day will culminate with a ribbon cutting outside the high school in which a new banner will be unveiled in Murphy’s honor — inscribed with the words Navy (SEAL) LT. Michael P. Murphy Campus — written across the front entrance to the high school. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed at 7 p.m. by “a full program dedicated” to Murphy inside the high school, according to Schools Superintendent Michael Locantore.

“I don’t want to give too many surprises because there will be some nice surprises,” said Locantore, who devised the tribute. He declined to go into specifics about the program, only saying the school’s vocal groups and band would perform and students are expected to address the audience.

Locantore said the event, which is open to the public, would be publicized in a message through Connect-ED, a computerized mass notification system used by the school district. That message, inviting the community to attend, is expected to go out sometime after this week, he said.

Locantore, who first met Murphy as an administrator when Murphy was still in middle school, described the planning of the event as very emotional because it is so special. “I remember Michael as a very respectful young man in middle school, always looking to do the right thing,” he said.

Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy, could not be reached for comment by deadline.

The Patchogue-Medford Board of Education first voted to rename the campus in Murphy’s honor back in the spring of 2008, but the measure was never made official. The push to rename the high school was reinvigorated this past January. 

Locantore could not say why the change was never made official, noting the board’s resolution was approved prior to his taking the position of superintendent. However, he said he made the decision this year to hold Michael Murphy Day and dedicate Pat-Med Pride to the late sailor.

“All I wanted to do was to take something that should have happened and make it right,” he added.

Gary Vertichio, commanding officer of the Lt. Michael Murphy Sea Cadets Corps, said he attended a board of education meeting earlier this year where he and other supporters asked school officials what happened with the high school’s renaming. Vertichio thinks naming the campus after Murphy is important because of the sacrifice he made and he questioned how many schools or towns have Medal of Honor recipients. Naming Murphy’s high school in his honor is only fitting given his sacrifice, he said.

“To give up your life to get that honor,” said the Sayville resident. “To me, it’s fitting.”

Murphy has been honored numerous times since his death. In October 2012, the Navy commissioned a destroyer, the USS Michael Murphy, in a rare honor bestowed upon sailors. Other namesakes of his include the Patchogue Post Office, the former Lake Ronkonkoma Park where he was a lifeguard, a combat training pool at Naval Station Newport, R.I., and a Naval Sea Cadets Corps unit in West Sayville. 

In December, the battle in which Murphy and his three other teammates died was memorialized on the silver screen in the motion picture, “Lone Survivor,” which is based on the account of a surviving teammate, Marcus Luttrell.