Emory Report
My 30, 2006
Volume 58, Number 31


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May 30 , 2006
Emory’s ‘yin & yang’ take unprecedented double honors

BY beverly clark

J.B. Tarter and Devin Murphy are a study in contrasts: Tarter, a diehard conservative from the heartland of Idaho, has strong aspirations for a career in politics and policy. Murphy, a true blue liberal from Spartanburg, S.C., plans to become a professor and ultimately the provost of a major university. Put the two together, and you have what people call the “yin and yang” of Emory College’s Class of 2006.

They are the first to admit they rarely agree on much. They do, however, have a lot in common. Outstanding scholars, campus leaders and devoted volunteers, each received one of the University’s top student honors, the 2006 Lucius Lamar McMullan Award—which includes $20,000 each, no strings attached. Described as “joined at the hip” in their dedication to work together for the common good during their college careers, the pair is being honored for their collective and individual service with the unprecedented decision to award both a fully funded McMullan Award.

“Interdependency remains a word that many people embrace, but do not enact. J.B. and Devin acted interdependently—in the Emory Scholars Program, the Student Government Association and a number of Emory organizations,” said Bobbi Patterson, outgoing director of the Emory Scholars Program and faculty member in religion.

“Part of the beauty of how they worked and lived interdependently involved their willingness to be different, to approach an issue or a problem from alternate perspectives, to use different theories and methods, to argue—and then work their way into a shared and innovative next step,” Patterson said. “These two men, with their high levels of maturity, lived interdependency at its best at Emory.”

The two, both Robert W. Woodruff Scholars (the University’s most prestigious academic scholarship), are described as natural leaders who assume leadership positions in almost every group they join. They first got to know each other when they were paired together their freshman year as partners in Emory’s nationally ranked debate program, the Barkley Forum.

Nearly four years after they met, Tarter and Murphy say they both started laughing when they found themselves summoned together to the dean’s office. “It had to be either really good—or really bad. We had no idea what to expect,” Murphy said.

Both say they are humbled to have received the award and happy, as well. The money will be used to help fund their graduate careers: Murphy is headed to New York University to study for a Ph.D., while Tarter will go to Harvard Law School.

A nationally ranked debater in high school, Murphy used his verbal skills to lead the campus through many sensitive debates on race relations and sexual orientation, demonstrating, as one letter of support said, “the character to resist the subtle seduction that comes with power, by employing responsible advocacy (rather than) self-centered advocacy.”

Similarly, Tarter also stood out in his four years at Emory as a mature and politically conservative voice on campus. Through his involvement with the College Republicans, student government and his writings in student publications at Emory, he led the campus in openly and candidly debating the important issues of the day in a way that built community instead of dividing people more, his nominators noted.

Through Emory’s Student Government Association (SGA), Murphy and Tarter worked together closely on many issues. Together, they addressed what they described as “common sense” issues that affected students and the University as a whole, whether it was student government election reform, chartering new student groups, discussing controversial changes to student meal plans, or working with DeKalb County on a sound ordinance that resulted in a reasonable compromise on outdoor events with the surrounding community.

“We both love Emory and want what’s best for the community. So when we come together on an issue, we bring different strengths and constituencies,” Tarter said.

“Often we’ll agree on the same course of action for totally different reasons,” Murphy said. “We essentially strived to bring people together in dialogue to work on positive change.”

Individually, Murphy is graduating with a bachelor’s degree, with highest honors, in interdisciplinary studies in society and culture. Besides receiving the McMullan Award, he also served as the 2006 Class Orator. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, Murphy has received two national scholarships: the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship in 2003 and the Beinecke Scholarship in 2005.

Though he spent most of his life wanting to be a lawyer, Murphy now hopes to join the academy to examine race, gender and sex from a philosophical and cultural perspective; at Emory, he served on the president’s commissions on both Race and Ethnicity and LGBT Concerns. At NYU, Murphy plans to pursue an interdisciplinary doctorate in American studies.

Tarter will receive both a bachelor’s degree, with highest honors, with a triple major in political science, economics and history (with a math minor), and a master’s degree in political science. He has received many accolades, including induction into Phi Beta Kappa and the Levitas Award for most outstanding political science graduate.

He also was deeply involved in the Emory Scholars Program. He revamped and oversaw an advising and mentoring program for freshman scholars, and coordinated events for the program’s annual recruitment weekend. He also served on the Center for Ethics advisory board as a student representative.
After law school, Tarter said he hopes to enter the national political arena as an adviser and policy maker.

This past year, he served as the Sen. Sam Nunn Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington. In addition to internships at the Heritage Foundation and two Senate offices, Tarter served on the Georgia Secretary of State’s student advisory committee, developing ways to decrease voter apathy and increase civic participation by college students. He also has done interviews and commentary on politics with CNN International, BBC Radio, NBC, the Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio.