History & Mission of The Elizabeth Murphey School

The Elizabeth W. Murphey School has a rich history, going all the way back to the 1920s.

Sanford Sayre Murphey (right) had moved from Dover to Colorado early in his life, and became a successful businessman working in the coal industry. He became renowned for not only his business acumen but his compassion for his employees. Towards the end of his life, he stated that he had never heard of a strike in his mines.


Mr. Murphey returned to Dover and founded the Elizabeth W. Murphey School in 1922. It was named in honor of his mother, Elizabeth Murphey (left). His unusual choice of naming it a "school" was based in his strong belief that the education of children was a twenty-four hour job, not simply an activity that occurred within the walls of a classroom.

Mr. Murphey's own words best sum up the mission statement of the school: "I am devoting the means which I have been able to accumulate during a lifetime of active effort. It is my life's work. Through it I choose to honor the memory of my mother in the community where she lived and to render some service in the community in which I was born and spent my early life.

It is my desire that this institution shall be a fostering home where children who would otherwise be neglected may have a happy childhood; and where they may have the fullest opportunity to develop toward useful and efficient lives."


Many things have changed since the founding of the Murphey School in 1922. The roads the buildings reside on have been paved, and horse-drawn carriages are a distant memory. The original campus had to have its own infirmary, as its founding pre-dated Kent General Hospital by 3 years! But what has not - and will never - change is the devotion our staff have to our clients.

Mr. Murphey said it best: "I wish [the Murphey School] to be free from those unhappy associations which so often have been connected with orphanages and children, and furthermore because I conceive the rearing of children in all aspects as an educational work. The purpose of the School, therefore, is nothing less than a plan to meet, insofar as possible, the needs of every child in its care to the end that these children will be well fortified to meet the problems of life in whatever manner they may present themselves. With splendid equipment to work with and an employee alive to its responsibilities, there should result a type of citizenry of whom all will be proud."

For over ninety years, we have sought to make a difference in children's lives. We dedicate ourselves to we will be continuing to serve the community and state well into the future.