Robert J. Murney, Ph.D., described himself as a man who “tried to always be understanding and compassionate with patients, family and friends.” He was born in Springfield in 1926 and lived here until he joined the Navy at the age of 17. He said his military career, which included service on the USS Missouri during World War II, was “the most defining moment of my life” and “helped determine who I am”.
After his discharge from the Navy, Dr. Murney and his brother Joe, also a veteran, spent one summer living at home and participating in the 5220 Club. The Club was created to provide a source of income ($20 per month) to veterans who were unable to get a job related to their military service. Finding no positions in the Springfield area for a rangefinder and gun director, Dr. Murney signed on.
As he began planning a career, Dr. Murney settled on the study of psychology, believing it would provide a way to understand himself and the problems he had adjusting after his war service. After completing a B.S. in Psychology at St. Louis University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Dr. Murney spent the first seven years of his career in Maryland.
While he and his family were visiting Springfield in 1962, Dr. Murney’s late first wife longed to return to the Ozarks. Dr. and Mrs. Murney and five children returned to Springfield later that year, where he joined the practice of the only group of psychologists in town. Within a few weeks, the group split and all psychologists were fired. Dr. Murney found himself with no job and a family of seven to feed. His election as a Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology, attainment of the ABPP and five years experience at the VA Hospital in Perry Point, Maryland, put him in good standing to accept a position as Chief Psychologist at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners.
In 1985, Dr. Murney began an association with The School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute. He was later named Director of the Forest Clinic. Although he continued to provide both clinical and hypnosis supervision at the Clinic, Dr. Murney passed the baton to his successor, Dr. Robert King, in 2004. “It’s time for new blood,” he said. “Dr. King has dreams and innovative ideas.” The Forest Clinic was dedicated to Dr. Murney that year as well.
When he wasn’t in his professional role, Dr. Murney was a husband, the father of nine children, a “sports nut,” an avid reader, and an exercise devotee. Although Dr. Murney came to Springfield with only five children, that number surged when, several years after the loss of his first wife to cancer, he married a “wonderful woman who keeps me on the straight and narrow.” Their marriage created a very full house by bringing together his five and her four children.
With nearly 50 years of experience in psychology, Dr. Murney was willing to share the wisdom he’d gained from both good and bad experiences. He considered his choice of profession “the smartest decision I ever made.” Psychology proved an enduring source of satisfaction for him. “I like people. I like to understand how they have grown and developed.”
Dr. Murney passed away June 29, 2005. His legacy remains in his family, a host of friends and professional psychologists across the country who learned from and respected him.