By Andrew Myers,
Johns Hopkins Hub
The Johns Hopkins School of Education has announced that the Rev. Dr. Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper, the CEO and publisher of the AFRO-American Newspapers, will deliver the commencement address at this year’s graduation ceremony, May 23, at 7 p.m. on Homewood Field. Dr. Draper will return to give the commencement speech almost fifty years to the day after receiving her Master’s degree at the School of Education.
A lifelong Baltimorean, Draper earned her Master of Education (M. Ed.) at Johns Hopkins in 1973, following in the footsteps of her mother, the late Frances L. Murphy II, who earned the same degree. Draper also holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish language education from Morgan State University, an advanced degree in business administration from the University of Baltimore and a pastoral counseling degree from Loyola University. In addition, she earned a doctorate in ministry from the United Theological Seminary and served as pastor of Freedom Temple AME Zion Church in South Baltimore from 2002 until 2022.
“Johns Hopkins was instrumental in my career,” says Draper, who applied her JHU degree to her teaching practice in the classrooms of the Baltimore City Public School System. “My M.Ed. formalized and enriched what I was already doing in the classroom and made me a complete teacher.”
Through publishing, the pulpit and the classroom, Draper has parlayed her skills into a position of leadership in the Baltimore community through a unique commitment to giving back and continuous education. She served as vice chair of the Board of Regents from 1995 to 2020 at her undergraduate alma mater, Morgan State University, and is publisher and chairman of the Board of the AFRO-American Newspapers. Draper also served on the boards of the United Way of Central Maryland, Loyola University Maryland, the Y of Central Maryland and was the vice chair of Baltimore’s Literacy Foundation. She has been named among Maryland’s Top 100 Women three times and has been enshrined in their Circle of Excellence.
The AFRO-American Newspaper—better known as “The AFRO”—was founded by Draper’s great-grandfather, John Henry Murphy Sr. in 1892. Murphy bought the name and a printing press from a group of local pastors for $200.
“They were better pastors than they were printers, but my great-grandfather turned it into a lasting institution,” Draper says today. The AFRO has been in Draper’s family ever since.
The worlds of publishing, preaching, boardrooms and classrooms are not so far removed from one another as would first appear, Draper says, and her seeming eclectic background coalesces in a personality of uncommon force and community impact.
“These endeavors in business, church and in publishing, and that of education are really based in the same skills. All are about teaching, yes, but also about motivating, about leading, about communicating and about inspiring others. Mostly, it’s about caring,” Draper says when asked to explain how all her diverse interests have shaped her life. “If you can lead a room of seventh- and eighth-graders, you can lead anywhere.”
On that note—caring—Draper is most forceful. Above all, teachers must be role models and aware that the things they say are only half of an incredible power they possess to reach young people and shape complete human beings ready for the world.
In many ways, Draper says she is still learning the same lessons of fifty years ago. She believes that every word and every action—everything one does—is seen and heard by someone desperate for examples of how to live a good and full life. Educators must never forget they are role models, she says.
“Kids need stability. They need educators who care,” Draper states. “I’m just hoping to be an inspiration to the graduating class the way I hope they will be to their students. Follow your passions. Make the most of your skills and your time. And never forget: Character is important. I can’t teach you something I’m not trying to live myself.”
This article was originally published by Johns Hopkins Hub.