Lisle, Illinois ~ As a young girl in Anaheim, Calif., Molly Morley always felt at home on a volleyball court – and it showed. Years later, it came as no surprise to her high school coaches or teammates when recruiters started showing up to invite her to play at the collegiate level.
Now a junior Communication Arts major with a concentration in Sports Communication at Benedictine University – and the first recipient of the Jim Durham Memorial Scholarship – Morley reflects on her experience of being recruited by BenU women’s volleyball head coach Jennifer Wildes, and how a visit to Benedictine’s campus brought her college search to a halt.
“I had previously visited a campus in South Dakota, but that was too rural for me,” Morley said. “My parents and I always really loved Chicago, but some of the downtown campuses I visited seemed concrete and impersonal.
“Benedictine’s campus has a warm feeling that I fell in love with right away,” she said. “It’s a cozy community, but it’s close to a large metropolitan area. It was everything I was looking for.”
She was not disappointed. As a freshman, she was immediately taken under the wing of Benedictine’s close-knit women’s volleyball team.
“I was moving here from so far away and I didn’t know anyone. Being on the volleyball team really helped with the transition, because it was like I had 20 automatic friends. Right away, I knew I’d chosen the right school.”
A sense of community and a devotion to athleticism were also important to late professional sports broadcaster Jim Durham. To honor Durham and his beliefs and values – and to help deserving Communication Arts students like Morley – his family established the Jim Durham Memorial Scholarship Fund at Benedictine.
Durham was lead NBA play-by-play announcer for ESPN Radio, a broadcaster for the Dallas Mavericks, and the TV and radio voice of the Chicago Bulls between 1973-91. In addition to ESPN, he worked for NBC, ABC, CBS and Turner Sports. He was presented the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2011, was named Illinois Sportscaster of the Year in 1979, 1989 and 1990, and won two Chicago Emmy awards.
When he passed away in 2012, NBA great Michael Jordan called Durham “the voice of champions.”
Helen Durham, Jim Durham’s widow, felt Benedictine was the right institution to found a lasting scholarship in her husband’s name to cement his legacy of professionalism and giving and to help new generations of communicators.
“We searched for colleges and universities that had communications departments with a sports broadcasting emphasis,” Durham said. “We hoped, additionally, to find a program that emphasized the ‘whole person’ and a program that was values-driven.
“We initially narrowed it down to four schools. Benedictine University best fit the bill on all counts, and was also in DuPage County where we lived for a number of years while Jim was with the Chicago Bulls,” she added.
The scholarship provides a $1,000 award to a Communication Arts major with a Sports Communication concentration. Preference is given to students who are planning to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Students must be of at least sophomore status, demonstrate a financial need, have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or better, write an essay, provide details of academic achievement, and have a desire and commitment to making a difference for good in the world. The scholarship is renewable each academic year.
Morley dreams of a career as decorated as Durham’s. Her sights are set on media and marketing, and her long-term goal is to work for ESPN or Fox Sports.
Benedictine is helping her work toward these goals by providing opportunities for hands-on broadcasting experience.
“I’ve learned so much by broadcasting Benedictine’s men’s volleyball games with (BenU’s athletics broadcaster and Chicago sports radio veteran) Mark Vasko,” Morley says. “This scholarship will help me continue to find valuable opportunities.”
This Dean’s List student may not have a lot of time for volleyball this summer. She has secured a full-time internship with Team Detroit – an advertising agency that works with major car manufacturers – and a job with Major League Baseball in the Los Angeles Angels’ communications department.
Morley links her success in and out of the classroom to the community learning experiences which are inherent within a Benedictine education.
“Volleyball teaches me so many valuable skills,” she said. “I am learning the value of teamwork and camaraderie. I am learning leadership skills. These lessons will be so helpful to me when I begin my career.”
Morley’s story is an example of how a Benedictine, values-based liberal arts education promotes healthy living and a life lived in balance. The Durham Scholarship is a great example of how giving back affects the lives of others and rewards hard work.
To learn more about Benedictine University and available scholarships, visit ben.edu or contact (630) 829-6300.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fifth consecutive year in 2015. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.