My Flyer Family: A great-great connection
Michelle Little Murrin '20 has roots that run deep at UD, beginning over a century ago with her great-great uncle, the late Father William Ferree, S.M. '20. She tells the family story.
My family, four generations back, is from Dayton; they just all spread out and keep coming back.
My family ties to UD go back to the 1920s when my great-great uncle Bill — or as others know him, Father William Ferree, S.M. ’20 — became the first of our line to graduate from UD. He was born here in the Gem City in 1905.
I never got to meet my great-great uncle; he passed away in the ’80s, but I grew up hearing stories about him from my mom and grandma. He was an interesting character, by their accounts. One of my grandma’s favorite stories to tell was of when my he was visiting my mom and her siblings when they were little in St. Louis.
My maternal grandparents warned them that he was a very respected, important person, and they needed to be on their best behavior.
“My maternal grandparents warned them that he was a very respected, important person, and they needed to be on their best behavior.”
As soon as he arrived at the family home he sat down on the floor and played Connect 4 with my mom. My mom beat him, and he was making jokes about how he had his doctorate of philosophy, yet she still beat him. He was a very down-to-earth guy, even though he held high positions in the order.
He wasn’t fond of getting cleaned up for Mass, and he liked to do work out in the fields. He used to do some work at Mount St. John, a Marianist property in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, which is where he was later buried.
The first time I remember being on campus was for my aunt and uncle’s wedding around 2002. My uncle Bernie Ruthmeyer ’87 was an alum and my aunt, Mary Anne Ruthmeyer, although she didn’t attend UD, was from Dayton.
Growing up in Newark, Delaware, I didn’t have any extended family nearby; our family was isolated. People at my school had generations of family that went to the same high school, and I never had that connection in Delaware.
Going to UD gave me the opportunity to learn more about my great-great uncle Bill who was a priest and taught philosophy at the University. I felt more connected to my family when I was on campus, and it was nice to have family nearby.
One year, UD was holding the Bicentennial Marianist Mass Celebration, and I went to it with my friends.
I was talking to Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I., who was a mentor to my mom during her time at UD, and a bunch of people came up to me saying, “We know who you are! You’re Elaine’s daughter,” and immediately recognized me through my mom, Elaine Ruthmeyer Little ’90. This was also because both my mom’s older brother Bernie and her younger sister Martha Ruthmeyer ’03, were Flyers. My friends were impressed that all of these people knew my family.
During my sophomore year, I met my husband, Isaac Murrin ’21. We met in Marianist Hall at Thursday night Mass. We randomly started talking after I made a comment about Tom Brady breaking his hand.
We connected over sports, despite the fact that I am a Steelers fan and he’s a Browns fan. He approached me after Mass and said, “This might sound weird, but I need your phone number.”
Issac was a mentor for a robotics team in the area, and he needed a date for a fundraising dance. He was a year younger than me, so he took me to dinner in Marycrest first. Now we’ve been together for five-and-a-half years and married for one.
We quickly realized that our ties to UD were closely connected. Isaac’s great-grandfather, Paul Piening ’34, attended UD at the same time as my great grandfather, although we’re not sure if they knew each other. UD was so small back then though, so it is likely they crossed paths.
We live in the Dayton area, and I go back once a year for my Pride of Dayton Marching Band (POD) reunion. Isaac’s brother and his three cousins are currently attending UD, and his other brother just graduated last spring, so we still have strong ties to campus.
We are grateful for our forever connection to Flyer Nation, and we’re even starting to envision our future children becoming Flyers.
—As told to Cara Gfroerer ’24
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