In less than a week Mark “Leko” Alan Murphy Jr. will address his classmates during Stephenville High School’s graduation ceremonies while holding the honor of being number one in the 245-member Class of 2008.

This year’s valedictorian, who has accumulated a 5.154 grade point average (GPA) on a weighted 5-point scale, says he is excited about completing high school and looks forward to continuing his education next fall.

Murphy has attended Stephenville ISD since Kindergarten and upon entering the high school has managed to achieve academic success becoming this year’s top grad, all while juggling a busy schedule full of extracurricular activities.

His many awards and honors span both academic and athletic extracurricular activities, including University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions.

Murphy has also been a member of SHS chapters of the National Honor Society, Science and Latin Clubs. As a member of NHS, Murphy was elected as the organization’s president and also served as class treasurer and on the SHS Student Council for three years.

He also participated in UIL academic events and advanced to Regionals with the Number Sense and Science teams. Murphy also was named champion at the Weatherford Coyote Area Math Championship in 2007.

This year’s valedictorian is not only successful in the classroom, but is a talented musician twice earning Texas All-State 4A Symphonic Band honors playing the tenor saxophone, and advancing to the State UIL Solo and Ensemble contests all four years while at SHS. Murphy was also named to the UIL All-Region Jazz Band from 2005-07.

Murphy is in both the SHS marching and symphonic Bands, playing the alto saxophone and serving as section leader and vice president of the band, as well as saxophone section leader of the jazz band.

During his junior year, Murphy was named a National Merit Commended Scholar, and this year was selected for the United Coop Youth Tour, as a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar in Summer 2007, and attended the American Legion Texas Boy’s State conference as a delegate last year.

In the community, Murphy has served as a senior patrol leader with the Boy Scouts, attending the National Jamboree in Washington, D.C. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout in December 2006.

Murphy can often be found doing community service projects with the First United Methodist Church youth group and Boy Scouts. He has volunteered with the Stephenville All-Stars League and Optimist Club’s track meets. At Oakdale United Methodist Church, Murphy is a guitarist with the praise team and has played with three rock bands and recorded a demo in a professional studio.

During his four years at SHS, Murphy credits the encouragement of mathematics teacher Julie Dacus and his parents for his love of learning.

“My parents, they’ve always inspired me to participate in multiple activities and to be involved at school and in the community,” said Murphy. “They told me that academics are the most important thing.”

Murphy says his calculus teacher is “a great person and knows her stuff,” helping him to gain entry into the NASA program last summer.

His advice to incoming students wanting to make it to the top of their class is to start early.

“Don’t just go straight academics,” said Murphy. “Branch out and participate in multiple groups and sports. Don’t just stay in your room and study. It helps to get involved in the community and do service projects.”

Upon his graduation from SHS, Murphy plans to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. next fall. He has been accepted into the School of Engineering, adding that he intends to major in mechanical engineering.

Leko is the son of Oliana and Mark Murphy Sr.