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Ten Years of Trotting

As they’ve done annually for the last decade, Providence Day Chargers both young and old took to the track for a good cause.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Gil Murdock Turkey Trot, a schoolwide non-perishable food and supplies drive. Held in Overcash Stadium Nov. 14, the event netted approximately 10,200 items for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.

“We more than doubled our best year,” noted P.E. and Health Department chair Kristie Oglesby.

In addition to the food donations, she said, “we have been able to honor an amazing man who meant so much to so many people in our community.”

That man, Gil Murdock, was a longtime teacher, coach and administrator who passed away unexpectedly in June 2006. Oglesby can still recall that first Turkey Trot in 2007.

“The Murdock family was in attendance and it was very emotional for a lot of our faculty and staff, as well as the alumni who participated,” she recalled. “It felt like the community really came together to support Coach Murdock. The feeling is hard to put into words.”

Oglesby never got to meet Murdock, but feels she has come to know him through the people — colleagues and students — he impacted over the years.

“He was a mentor, colleague and dear friend,” said P.E. and Health teacher Jim Cerbie. “The world would be a better place if more people were like Gil Murdock.”

Founding Father

Before succumbing to a heart attack at age 64, Murdock had a distinguished career at PDS. He was the school’s first physical education teacher, joining the faculty in 1971 a year after the school was founded. He built the athletics program and started and coached the majority of the school’s sports teams, including basketball, baseball, tennis, football, cross country, track and golf — a sport he coached his last 12 years at PDS.

Over the years, Murdock’s boys’ golf teams won three North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state titles, and his girls’ cross country team won two titles. In 1997, the PDS baseball field was dedicated in his honor.

“Gil was a role model for us young guys when we first arrived,” recalled Cerbie, who joined PDS in 1987.

“He did it all for PDS — P.E. teacher, coach, athletic director,” said Cerbie. “He improvised for equipment to stay under budget. My favorite example is he used to roll up newspaper and use masking tape to make batons for P.E. class.”

And Murdock exercised every day, recalled Head Athletic Trainer John Erb, who came to PDS in 1991.

“Through his work as the first P.E. teacher, he touched many lives over his years here at Providence Day by teaching the importance of an active lifestyle,” said Erb. “As a cross country coach, he reached out to students who were not playing a sport to get them active on a team and into running.”

But as big as Murdock was into physical fitness, he was equally big on helping the community and individuals.

“One of the main reasons we do the Turkey Trot in his honor was due to his passion for helping others,” noted Cerbie.

It was because of Murdock’s desire to help others that his family and friends established the Gilmer L. Murdock Jr. Endowment Fund in 2007. The fund’s purpose is to ensure all students are able to fully benefit from the PDS experience by covering “extra” expenses such as tutoring, SAT review classes, sports equipment, team camps and more for any students demonstrating financial need.

“He was always truly concerned about others, asking about your family, how everyone was doing,” said Cerbie. “He would ask other faculty members about their children and how they were doing both in and out of school.”

“I always got the feeling that he genuinely cared,” said Erb.

Today it is part of PDS’s mission to instill in its students a sense of social responsibility. The goal is to encourage students to engage in activities that teach leadership, principles of service to the community, and personal responsibility.

Fitness and Philanthropy

Typically students participate in the Turkey Trot during their P.E. and health classes, dropping off their donations before making the rounds on the track and/or joining in group dancing and other activities on Compton Field.

“Our students benefit by learning to give to those who may be struggling and in need of a little help, which in turn teaches empathy,” said Oglesby. “They also get to celebrate with a healthy activity in the process.”

Faculty, staff, parents and alumni participate in the Turkey Trot along with Murdock’s family — his sons, Gil ’92 and Robert ’95, and especially his widow, Linda, who has attended each year, walking and assisting with donations. Many alumni look forward to talking and reminiscing with her, said Oglesby.

The event is one of the Murdock family’s favorite days of the year, said Linda.

“I feel Gil’s presence so closely when I’m here at Providence Day for the Turkey Trot,” she said in 2015. “I know he would be smiling and encouraging and just so pleased for what this means, for trying to combat hunger in Charlotte.”

The efforts have grown steadily over the decade, since the first Turkey Trot netted 1,800 food items. Last year saw the highest number collected yet — 4,849.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, and to emphasize the social responsibility aspect, collection bins were placed around campus to encourage donations prior to the event, especially from older students who didn’t have P.E. classes the day of the trot. The theme was “10 years, 10 items,” with the goal of each person contributing 10 donated items.

It worked. With this year’s record collection, the total food items collected at the Turkey Trots over the last 10 years is approximately 41,750.

Linda Murdock described the record-breaking event as “absolutely amazing.”

“So much for so many in need. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude to all,” she added. And “Gil is tipping his hat to you as I am.”

Donations went to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, “so a lot of people in our community benefit from the donations during the holiday season,” said Oglesby.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Gil is thrilled and smiling down on us while we continue his interest in community service,” said Cerbie.  

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