Tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What’s your hometown? Your school you went to? All the fun stuff.
I was born in Traverse City, but grew up mostly in the Lansing area. I went to Lansing Catholic Central High School. Right out of high school I went into the Navy as a naval photographer. At that time, if you served full-time in the military for a minimum of three years you got your college paid for, so I did that.
Right out of the Navy, I went to Central Michigan University for a year, then transferred to Michigan State University to get my undergraduate degree in social sciences. Then later on in life I got my MBA from Northwood University.
What was your very first job?
My very first job was a paper boy. I delivered the Lansing State Journal in my neighborhood to 100 subscribers. That was back in the day when the papers were delivered in the early evening. After school, I would go and get all of my papers, I had a bike with a big basket in the back. I mastered the art of zooming down the sidewalk and throwing the folded up newspaper on the porch without breaking anything. I did that for five years! I started when I was 12 or 13. It was my first experience with having a checkbook, making some income. I had to deliver the paper, but also knock on doors and collect the money.
As my love of photography grew, my first “real” job was working in a camera store, selling cameras, which I absolutely loved. It was like being a kid in a candy shop.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was the son of an architect and I had no desire to ever be an architect. I was not good at drawing, I marveled at my father’s skills. There weren’t computers, it was all done by pencil and ruler and compasses. I still have his drafting table in my office at home.
I had an uncle that I really looked up to, he was a very successful ear, nose, and throat doctor. So initially I thought I would go into medicine. I saw myself wearing a white lab coat, and being a doctor. Maybe I would join my uncle’s practice. That was fleeting because I can’t stand needles and I look away at the site of blood.
I really saw myself being a professional photographer and photojournalist. I always liked to write. I was the geek that was always taking the pictures, and on the yearbook squad. I started my high school’s first ever newsletter and I did it all myself. I would go to rock concerts and write reviews in my high school newspaper. I wanted to be a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, and that was my dream.
Obviously, I went into the Navy, and then got more into business and healthcare administration. I got laid off from the hospital as a junior supervisor and found myself working as a direct care worker in a residential group home, and got the social work bug. Then I got the social work leadership bug. So definitely not where I thought I wanted to be, but I’m very happy and fulfilled with where my career went.
Were there any other jobs or experiences that lead you here?
Well, I worked with adults in a residential setting, in a group home for recovering male alcohol and drug addicts. Then I found my love in family and children services starting with runaway and homeless youth. I moved onto child welfare and behavioral health. I worked with three different agencies along the way.
I remember getting out of the navy, one of the skills I learned was how to repair photo processing equipment - those big machines you would put your film in to get your pictures, back before everything went digital. I needed a job out of the navy, while I was going to school, and at the time the hospitals' X-ray departments used those same machines to process those big X-ray films. So I got a job at a hospital, going around and repairing them, and doing quality control on those big machines. It was my first and only job where it was hands-on, fixing something. I honestly hated it. It was not for me. My gift was more writing, creating, and leading.
How long have you been with D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s and what has the journey been like since you started?
I am currently in my fifth year here. My anniversary is May 5, 2015. It’s gone by fast. When I first came here I was told that I was filling big shoes. This organization has a long, successful history. My first year here, I really laid low and tried to study and learn, and listen about the history, strength, and challenges of the agency. I lead an agency for 18 years in Lansing, so I have some chops in leading multi service agencies.
No agency is ever on cruise control, we always need to be looking for what we could improve on. You can never coast. I wasn’t surprised that I began to see things that we could build on, make stronger, and create a more unified vision. I came here five years after the merger and so I wanted to try and create a more unified organization and culture. We’re still working on that, it doesn’t happen overnight. No agency is perfect.
It’s funny because the agency that I left, the new CEO came into that agency and saw things that needed to be improved, as well. It’s this continuum. You always build on greatness. With everything we’ve done from strategic planning, to developing new values, to upping our game with internal communication.
We’ve got a great leadership team, I’ve never worked with a finer leadership team. And when I say leaders, I mean everybody, all leaders. Those who may lead, but aren’t necessarily managers, but they’re rock stars with the clients we’ve served.
I’m tremendously proud of the work we’ve done to take this organization to a higher level of quality and sustainability. I know we’ve got a lot more work to do. I thrive on the unpredictability of the environment, the challenges and successes. I get out of bed every day going, “I can’t wait to get to work, start the day, and seize the opportunity.”
What are some accomplishments that you’ve had over the years that you would like to toot your own horn about?
Well, first of all, I hope I’ve had some influence with my one and only child. My daughter, Jessica. She is now a successful mother of two, married to a wonderful man. They’ve done very well and I’m very proud of her accomplishments.
My wife Amee, is smarter and prettier than me. She is my success, she’s amazing as a gifted Methodist pastor who also has her master’s in social work. She combines her social work with pastoral counseling and care. I’m proud of her and her accomplishments and I support her in every way.
In an industry that can really chew up and spit out leaders, I’m proud that I’ve lasted this long. To have the stamina and passion to stick with it. Eighteen years at my previous organization and five years here, has been extraordinary. This is honestly my professional and moral calling, and I’m proud to be here.
This agency is a member of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families. I currently serve as the Board Chair, and I’m very proud of that. It’s a position that your peers hold you high and elect you to. I’m more involved in the statewide systems involvement when it comes to advocating for the services that our membership provides.
You kind of touched on this earlier, but why do you do what you do? What gets you up and into work every morning?
First and foremost, it’s the mission. The mission is what we do and why we do it. It’s also the people. The people I work with, and work for is what drives me. There’s a few of us that get here pretty early most days and just hangout. Sometimes we talk business, and sometimes we just want to socialize for a bit. I can’t wait to come in the mornings to see everyone! I think it’s the mission and the people, absolutely. What else is there? It’s not the coffee… we have got to get better coffee.
What are your values outside of work? Family? Sports? Hobbies? Other interests?
It’s not a long list. Part of my self-care is that I’m a fitness guru. We have an at-home gym with a commercial treadmill that I love. Six out of seven days a week, I put it at a steep incline and go for about 45 minutes to an hour. I’m totally into it. I also love cooking and trying new recipes with my wife. But my absolute passion in life is golf. I am a golf addict. I have a small group of golfing fanatics. These are the guys that are on the golf course in early December when it’s 39 degrees, and if there’s no snow on the ground then we’re golfing. On the major holidays of the warm weather season, we get together and find a golf course where you can pay one rate and golf all day. We have a golf marathon. Our record was probably last Fourth of July, when we teed off at the crack of dawn and ended pretty much as the sun was setting. We got in 72 holes of golf that day. It was awesome.
I went to high school in the 1970’s, and really connected with the music of that time. I always ask people, “What’s your workout playlist?” Because that music is what gets you going. For me, it’s a lot of 70’s and 80’s rock and roll. A lot of ballads and anthem songs. It’s all over the map, really. I went to a lot of rock concerts in high school, like Kiss, Ted Nugent, Styx, and REO Speedwagon.
My all-time favorite movies are Italian mob movies. As for TV, it’s a lot of random stuff on Netflix and Hulu. I love any type of science fiction or space shows. I like Scandal, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, I love all of that stuff.
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About Allyssa Murphy
Allyssa's journey in the nonprofit world began in 2016 when she started working as a marketing assistant at a small residential facility for foster children in Flint, Michigan. This is where her passion for advocating for children's rights began. She later joined the DABSJ team in 2017.
Her hobbies include planning vacations - but never taking them, game nights with friends, keeping up with the latest movies and TV shows, and visiting friends and family on the other side of the mitten.
Allyssa graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Nonprofit Administration. She also has an associate's degree in Media Arts from Mott Community College.