In 2001, Liz Murray was the keynote speaker at Irish America’s Top 100 event. Photo Gallery: CLICK HERE
By age 16, her mom had died, her father was a drug addict and she was homeless.
But Liz Murray fought the odds, and won – she’s graduating from Harvard this June with a degree in psychology.
Irish American Murray, whose life was depicted in the Lifetime movie, "From Homeless to Harvard" and whose story became an inspiration to a nation, was born in the Bronx, New York, to impoverished, cocaine-addicted, HIV-infected parents.
“I slept on park benches, or on the subway. If it was cold, I rode the trains all night long, or slept in an apartment hallway. There would be days, sometimes a week or two, without showering. There was endless, endless walking. Never a moment to rest,” Murray wrote in The New York Times Upfront magazine in 2000.
The challenges of being destitute didn’t stop Murray from turning her life around.
Though she started high school later than most students, and remained homeless while attending school and supporting herself and her sister, Murray managed to graduate in just two years.
“I studied all the time, anywhere I could – school hallways, libraries, stairwells in apartment buildings. I was still homeless, but I finally had a way to show what I could do, and transform everything inside of me into something useful,” Murray wrote.
Then, Murray achieved her next extraordinary accomplishment: getting into Harvard.
Murray wrote: “Not only did I want to go to college, but I wanted to go to Harvard. I knew it represented all the opportunity in the world. So much had been denied to me in the past, and if I could help it, I didn’t want any doors closed in the future.”
She left Harvard in 2003 to care for her sick father and resumed her education at Columbia University to be closer to him. Sadly, in 2006 her father, like her mother, died of AIDS.
But in 2008, Murray headed back to Harvard to finish her degree.
Through everything, Murray has kept a positive, determined attitude, and holds no grudges. “I’m not angry with my parents,” she wrote. “They cared very much about me, and I loved them back. They were addicts since before my sister and I were born, and probably should have never had kids. I am grateful to them. They taught me things – they showed me which way not to go.
“But I also have good memories. I remember my mother coming into my bedroom at night, tucking me into bed. I remember her singing. If I could tell her anything today, I’d say: ‘Don’t worry about me anymore. I’m gonna be fine, and thank you for everything. And I love you.’”