LAWRENCE — Ten years ago, Sister Mary Murphy founded Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School so the Sisters of Notre Dame could continue educating the children of immigrants.
Now, Sister Murphy is stepping down as president of the school in June to spend more time promoting the school to donors and increase the number of businesses for the school’s corporate work-study program. She will now hold the position of Founder/President Emeritus.
“I feel so passionate about the people who believed in us. I don’t want them to lose that contact with us,” she said.
Notre Dame Cristo Rey opened in 2004 with 80 students at the former St. Mary High School building founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in partnership with Cristo Rey Network.
Students pay $6,750 for their tuition by working one day a week at businesses including Mitre, Putnam Investments, Mercury Systems, Enel Green Power and parochial schools in Andover, Lawrence, North Andover, Methuen. The family tuition portion is $2,800.
Since its first graduating class, all 320 alumni have been accepted to four-year schools.
Last year, the Cristo Rey network ranked Notre Dame in Lawrence number 1 for its corporate work-study program.
“Without her, the school would not be there,” said Robert Birdsell, former president and CEO of Cristo Rey Network in Chicago. “When people would tell her they could not start a Cristo Rey school in Lawrence, she never took no for an answer and said, ‘We’ll find a way.’ Many people have amazing leadership skills and others have vision, she has both.”
In the five years Birdsell was with Cristo Rey, he worked with at least 40 or 50 school leaders.
“She was one of the best and the one with the longest standing tenure, which is why the school is so successful because of her immense responsibility and commitment that the school is going to work,” Birdsell said.