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Jane Murphy Schulberg was the daughter of John E. Murphy II and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who met and married while they were working in Venezuela. On the eve of Jane’s birth, they traveled to Boston so she could be born, July 31, 1940, on U.S. shores, Afterwards, they returned to Venezuela until WWII forced them home. So Jane was a born traveler.
She was mainly raised and attended Roosevelt High School on the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i, where her father worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and later opened the House of Music in Waikiki, while her mother worked as a nurse. Jane left Hawai’i to attend Beloit College in Wisconsin.
Arriving in New York in 1963 to start her career, she met Gail Rock in the Unit Managers’ office at NBC. They roomed together for a year in what Gail describes as a “horrid apartment in Queens” and became life-long friends. Gail writes: “Jane was an absolute joy to be with. When we first met, we had the feeling that we had always known each other. We had been born about three weeks apart and joked that we had been friends in a previous life and decided to come back together.”
When Gail moved up to the more illustrious Today show, she heard about an open secretarial spot and convinced Jane to apply. Jane got the job and they worked together until Gail left in 1966 to pursue a career as a novelist and screenwriter.
Career opportunities for women at NBC were limited. Gail writes that she left NBC in part because “there clearly was no path there for women to advance.”
In 1977 the women of NBC sued the network for discrimination and won. The New York Times hailed this landmark ruling: “$2 Million Settlement Is Reported In Women's Bias Suit Against NBC”:www.nytimes.com/1977/02/13/archives/2-million-settlement-is-reported-in-womens-bias-suit-against-nbc.html The settlement covered “2,800 past, present and future women employees in New York City” — which included Jane. NBC conceded that the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s report, covering the years 1967 to 1972, reflected “historical trends in American society—that women have been underutilized in managerial positions and overutilized in clerical positions.”
This victory benefited Jane although she nonetheless spent many years climbing the ladder at Today from secretary to talent coordinator to book editor. Jane’s latter role was documented in a 1972 New York Times profile, “How to talk with Barbara Walters about practically anything” www.nytimes.com/1972/09/10/archives/how-to-talk-with-barbara-walters-about-practically-anything-roy.html, in which reporter James Conaway writes: “[Barbara] briefly discusses an upcoming program on new marriage styles with Jane Murphy, the book editor, and says, ‘Keep out the hominess. We'll find a young couple living together. I can ask those cryptic, conservative questions, like what will happen when they grow old.’ Jane Murphy asks if Barbara at the age of 22 worried about what would happen when she was 40, and Barbara tells her, I did, but that's my problem.’
Jane was an extraordinary wit and we can only imagine the myriad tales she could have recounted about Barbara Walters and the many other luminaries she prepped (and had to pamper) during her years at NBC.
It was also during her stint at Today that she met Stuart Schulberg, the show’s producer from 1968 to 1976, and they fell in love. They married in 1976 after his divorce from Barbara Goodrich Schulberg.
Jane absorbed Stuart’s passion for Haiti. Having made a searing documentary about Haiti’s dictator François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier, Stuart was prevented from returning to the country until Duvalier’s death in 1971. Thereafter, he and Jane would manage the Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince during the month of June allowing owners Al and Sue Seitz to go on vacation. Eventually, Stuart and Jane purchased land on the island where they hoped to retire. They also shared a passion for Haitian art and added to a significant collection of extraordinary paintings that Stuart had begun a decade earlier.
Another thing they confronted was alcoholism. Although Jane’s commitment to sobriety didn’t save Stuart, she not only conquered her addiction, she became a force in AA, helping to save many lives and serving as a featured speaker at national AA conventions in San Diego and elsewhere.
In 1976, after Stuart stepped down as producer of Today to resume production of long-form documentary specials for NBC, Jane parlayed her book editor experience and joined publisher Simon & Schuster as its publicity director. After Stuart’s death in 1979, she went back into television, this time at CBS, producing and scripting interviews for CBS News anchors Charles Kuralt, Diane Sawyer and Bill Kurtis. She also worked with Dan Rather on his first 48 Hours series (“48 Hours on Crack Street.”) After two years with CBS, she moved to public television, becoming a producer/writer/business manager for Alvin H. Perlmutter’s company. Shows she worked on included Adam Smith’s Money World, Report from Philadelphia with Bill Moyers, the Bill Moyers special, The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis and the ground-breaking series, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers.
Late in her career, Jane became fascinated by computers, got a certificate in System & Application Design from Columbia University, and gradually shifted her professional focus to the challenge of computer networking. She loved the puzzle of it all. While keeping one foot in TV news and documentary, she created the first accounting database for Perlmutter Productions and later took over the company’s graphic design and desktop publishing. Upon leaving AHP in 1997, she deployed those computer skills, fatefully, at the Lehman Brothers office next to the World Trade Center. Gail Rock writes that on 9/11 she called Jane repeatedly, worried she’d been hurt during the attack. To her relief, Jane had gone to a dentist appointment that morning. When Jane called her office, she was told to stay put because bodies were falling into the plaza between her building and the World Trade Center. Lehman Brothers’ survived 9/11 but imploded in 2008, bringing an end also to Jane’s career. At 68, she decided to call it quits.
Jane was an ailurophile! – a fancy word for cat fancier. When she finally gave up on New York City in 2016 and decided to move to Spooner, WI, to be close to her brother John, her two favorite cats moved with her.
One of the challenges of settling in small-town America was learning to drive – a skill one didn’t need in New York City. Shortly after arriving in Spooner, Jane wrote to Gail: “Lots to get adjusted to…not the least of which is driving…or learning to drive.” [After considering a snazzy pick-up truck] bought my great nephew's Pontiac 2003 Grand Am. 30 mpg. Don't know what I’ll end up doing with it, but it’s good for learning. Much to my surprise I don't miss the city at all.”
Those of us who loved Jane remember her as a life-long news junkie and ever-hopeful observer of that strangely paradoxical beast – the American body politic. She was elated and convinced in 2016 that Hilary Rodham Clinton would win “in a landslide” and was devasted when she didn’t. She could not get over the fact that a man she called “a sociopathic sub-human” had actually been elected to the presidency. She railed (hilariously) about him and the aftermath of his regime to her dying day.
Jane Murphy Schulberg died September 29, 2023 in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, aged 83. Her beloved younger brothers John E. Murphy III died in 2017 and Pierce Murphy in 2001. She is survived by her nephews John E. (Patti) Murphy, Kiko (Rachel) Murphy, Fred Murphy, and niece Margaret (Adrian) Murphy Sosa; her Murphy great-nephews and great-nieces, Julia, Sasha, Ryan, Patrick, David, Daniel, Kellen and two Evans, as well as her stepchildren, Sandra, KC, Peter and Jon Schulberg, and step-grandchildren, Chloe, Bennett, Laura, Claire and Caroline Schulberg.
A memorial service for Jane will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at the Spooner Funeral Home, at 3pm, with a gathering of family and friends at the Funeral Home from 1-3pm.
In honor of Jane's love of cats, in lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial/ donations be made to the Washburn County Humane Society at http://www.wcahs.com