“Shenandoah saved my life. I would not have made it to college had I not gone to Shenandoah,” explains Murrell Bolliger, who attended from 1953 to 1955. His story is one of determination and inspiration.
Growing up in Grafton, W. Va. was not an easy life for Bolliger. His family did not have much money, his parents were illiterate and he was many years behind his classmates throughout his schooling. By the time he reached high school, though, he was a stellar athlete. He was on the All-State basketball and football teams at Grafton High School. As his friends were making plans for college, Bolliger didn’t know where to begin. His parents had never talked about college. He turned to a teacher for advice. She told him he wasn’t “college material” and it was best if he got a job working in the coal mines or on the railroads. This did not break Bolliger’s spirit and determination.
Dick Ward ’52, who also grew up in Grafton, told Bolliger, “Find a way to Dayton, Va., look up Forrest Racey (professor and future president of Shenandoah) and tell him about yourself.” So that’s what Bolliger did during the summer of 1953. “I borrowed a car and drove to Dayton. I had never been out of West Virginia,” explained Bolliger. He drove to Racey’s home and was welcomed inside. Bolliger said, “I’d like to go to school here.” Racey replied, “You’re early. Come back in September!” and then asked how much money he had for college. Bolliger pulled $17 and some change from his pocket to show him what he had. After explaining to Racey that his parents did not have money either he said, “I can play ball,” to which Racey asked, “Are you any good?” “I’m really good,” replied Bolliger. Racey told Bolliger that he could work on campus–firing the furnace at the president’s house several times a day (3 a.m. was one of the firing times), cleaning the gym and working in the kitchen washing dishes. Bolliger earned his keep during those two years and didn’t pay a dime to Shenandoah until after graduation.
Bolliger played on the Hornets basketball team for two seasons. He is pictured in the photo to the left with the 1954 team. (#10 jersey in the back row) Years later, in 2009, he was inducted into the Shenandoah University Athletic Hall of Fame.
In addition to Dick Ward, his friends at Shenandoah were John Hostler ’55, Bob Crawford ’56, Jim Feddon ’55 and Joe Corne ’57. His favorite professors were Madge Keiter and, of course, Dr. Forrest Racey.
“My fondest memories of Shenandoah are the faculty and the fact that they knew every student in the college and conservatory by name. The enormous amount of assistance I received from many people at Shenandoah was very important to what I have achieved,” explained Bolliger. After attending Shenandoah, Bolliger continued his education at West Virginia University where he played for the Mountaineers’ nationally ranked basketball team, playing with Jerry West and Rod Hundley, both of whom went on the play for the L.A. Lakers. Bolliger was inducted as a member of the academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, and earned a bachelor’s degree from WVU in 1958.
Following the completion of his education, Bolliger was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army for several years during the Cold War with Russia, spending part of this time in Heilbronn, Germany.
Bolliger eventually began work as a medical representative in the Health Sector of Pharmaceutical Division at 3M. He stayed with the company for 42 years and was inducted into the Honors Circle, the highest award given by 3M. Bolliger was ranked number one in the nation for achievements with the company.
Bolliger has traveled Eastern Europe extensively and across the United States, including six trips to Hawaii. His hobbies include tennis, golf, fly fishing, chess and watercolor painting.
He has completed hundreds of watercolor paintings over the years. (One is pictured here.) This hobby began while Bolliger was traveling for work with 3M. In his spare time he would paint, learning much on his own and through art books. He recently held an art exhibit at the Bright Center on the Old Town Mall in Winchester, displaying beautiful works of Winchester buildings, the Chesapeake Bay, Williamsburg, county landscapes, fishing scenes and pintail ducks, among others.
If interested in seeing and/or purchasing one of Bolliger’s watercolor paintings, he may be reached at email@example.com or (540) 327-4969.
Bolliger resides in Winchester with his wife, Kay. They have two daughters, Tress Kimble ’92 and Trone Kee, an SU staff member, and five grandchildren.