Three to Receive UW Distinguished Alumni Awards
By Julianne Couch
Three University of Wyoming graduates will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards during UW Homecoming Oct. 16.
They are retired insurance executive, Samuel D. Clark of Bondurant (B.S. ‘69); president of Nerd Gas Company, LLC, Neil "Mick" McMurry of Casper (B.S. ‘68); and retired music educator and rancher, Margery Therkildsen Richardson of Laramie (B.A. ‘58).
They will attend several Homecoming activities, ride in a parade that starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, and be recognized during the Cowboys' football game against Utah at 4 p.m.
Clark earned his degree in crop science, admitting that he "looked for the quickest way to get a degree. I was married, we had our first child, it was time to get serious. I looked for a degree in field I enjoyed, that was crop science." Then after a bit of research into his job prospects, he discovered agriculture insurance.
Clark took his first job as an agent in Saratoga, with the Mountain West Farm Bureau in 1969, and in 1975 was named agency manager. He became a district manager over 10 counties in 1993 and in 1995 was named assistant executive vice president and CEO. He served as CEO until 2007, when he retired.
He has served in other leadership capacities, as well. He is the former mayor of Saratoga and Jackson. According to Clark, it is common practice for members of the business community in small towns to take their turns volunteering for various civic duties.
The banking profession also benefitted from Clark's leadership ability. He was a co-founder and director of the Wyoming State Bank, which expanded and has opened a branch in Cheyenne.
He continues to be involved with UW, as past president of the UW Alumni Association board and past director of the UW Art Museum National Advisory board. Other civic involvement includes Albany County United Way, Masonic Lodge #48, Cowboy Joe Club, Lions and Rotary clubs and past directorship of the Laramie Regional Airport board.
McMurry, current president of Nerd Gas Company, LLC, went from his college graduation to two years of service in Vietnam, where he flew helicopters. From there, he and his brother Vic McMurry ran a heavy construction company, McMurry Brothers, for 20 years. They sold the business in 1990, and then Mick started Nerd Gas Company, LLC, an exploration and production company based in Casper.
He wanted to name the company National Energy Resource Development, but his daughters suggested he shorten it to what they felt was appropriate to their father's nature: Nerd. "The name stuck," he said.
Brent Hathaway, dean of the UW College of Business, said, "Mick McMurry is Wyoming's most notable business leader, active in the energy industry as well as in other entrepreneurial endeavors. All of his businesses have been developed to benefit the people of Wyoming."
One result of this success was establishing the McMurry Foundation in 2000.The foundation was created to serve the youth, the underprivileged and various civic institutions in Natrona County and around Wyoming. Through the foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, Casper College, the Central Wyoming Counseling Center, the Wyoming Community Foundation and many others have received funding.
"As we get older we realize it isn't the money that matters in life," McMurry added. "It is what you have built and given, and what your character is - we've focused on that with our foundation. If you aren't sharing with others you haven't succeeded. We aren't done yet paying it forward."
An Albany County native, Richardson has taken her teaching career on the road. She was the first to teach music in all the rural schools in the county, which meant driving 2,000 miles a month, visiting more than a dozen schools. She also lived for a time in Sheridan County and taught both in the town and country.
Richardson taught in elementary schools around Albany County for 31 years before she retired. She continued to volunteer as a music educator at schools around Laramie. She came out of retirement for one year when a school in Harrisburg, Neb., was in danger of entering a school year without a music teacher.
Karin Jones was a teacher at Banner County School at the time, and recalls how Richardson came to the children's rescue by volunteering to help out.
"Mrs. Richardson brought style, grace, humility, love, and an amazing knowledge of music to the children and adults in our community. She exposed the students to a wide range of musical styles and instruments over the year, and as her love of music and her profession shone through her eyes it ignited an excitement and appreciation for it in the students."
UW is a family tradition for Richardson. Her father's older sister graduated from UW in 1908. Her daughter, Thyra Lynn Page ('08) is one of many other family members to graduate UW. According to Page, her mother's passions are her family, her ranch and music.
"To this day, she continues to get compliments from students around Laramie," Page says. "She cannot go into a store where she is not recognized as 'the favorite' music teacher and she is often hailed and praised as the 'best music teacher ever' by her students."
The University of Wyoming Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Samuel D. Clark, Neil "Mick" McMurry and Margery Richardson. (UW Alumni Association)