Interview: Sister Lillian Murphy
For Sister Lillian Murphy of Mercy Housing, your mission must not be an excuse to make bad business decisions.
By Harold Simon Posted on April 24, 2012
_Sister Lillian Murphy’s 25-year tenure as CEO of “Mercy Housing”:http://www.mercyhousing.org has successfully fused a commitment to mission—building healthy, vibrant communities through core organizational values of respect, justice, and mercy—with a business savvy that has seen Mercy expand to 41 states and provide housing to more than 135,000 residents._
_Once a hospital administrator in California with little knowledge of affordable housing, Sister Lillian emerged as a leader in affordable housing finance, as well as an innovator who readily admits there is still more to learn when it comes to finding the nexus between housing and healthy living._
_Sister Lillian spoke with_ Shelterforce _about the importance of mission, how Mercy plans to close the gap between supply and demand in affordable housing for low-income communities, and educating the next generation of community development professionals._
_*Shelterforce:* Please tell us about yourself and how you came to be with Mercy Housing?_
*Sister Lillian Murphy:* I was a hospital administrator before I came to Mercy. I had worked various positions in healthcare for about 15 years. I was on the board of a major healthcare system in California, and Sister Mary Therese Tracey was also on the board.
Sister Therese was the first CEO of Mercy Housing, so when she would come out for meetings, we’d get together and I’d hear about what she was doing. It fascinated me. When she was leaving Mercy Housing, she called and said, “I think you should apply,” and I knew next to nothing about affordable housing at that point. But I eventually decided I’d do this, and I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll do it for three to five years, and then I’ll go back into healthcare.”
Well, I immediately saw the connections between healthcare and housing, or lack of it, and really felt like we needed to bring a broader vision to this, and also a broader vision to what we were calling healthcare but was really acute care in the hospital setting. I loved it. When I first came, I can remember the first day, walking into the office and thinking, “This just feels so right.” And I haven’t regretted it ever since.
_You have done a remarkable job at Mercy._
We have an enormously talented staff who are incredibly dedicated. Makes it all work.
Harold Simon is executive director of the National Housing Institute and publisher of Shelterforce. Email Harold at firstname.lastname@example.org