Troy Lanier, Dr. Miriam Murtuza and Gale Peña Recognized for Decades of Service

Three outstanding faculty and staff members were honored in chapel this month for their decades of service and dedication to St. Stephen’s – Accounts Receivable Manager Gale Peña,Middle School English Instructor Miriam Murtuza, Ph.D. and Upper School Science Instructor Troy Lanier.

Retired Middle School English Instructor Vicki Woodruff described Dr. Murtuza, who has been teaching Spartans for 26 years, as a “teaching phenomenon.” 

“Your friends commented on your patience, your gentle spirit, your respect for all people,” said Woodruff. “Not just some, but all. They appreciate the soothing sound of your voice.”

Beyond the classroom, Dr. Murtuza has served on major school committees, led student trips to Big Bend in West Texas and coordinated too many service learning experiences to count. 

Senior Associate Director of Admission Allison Center honored Troy Lanier, a man of many talents. Over the last 33 years, Lanier has worked three separate stints at St. Stephen’s for a combined 20-year tenure. Lanier was originally hired as a math instructor and later became the math department chair, while also living on campus as a dorm parent, playing guitar in the faculty band and serving as the Director of Technology. 

He also founded the Outdoor Education program, which entailed taking students caving in Texas and Northern Mexico. Those early trips evolved into the current day SSES Devil's Canyon Wilderness Program. Lanier left The Hill the first time to attend graduate school, and studied the intersection of science, technology and medicine. He also became interested in filmmaking and produced his first documentary “Streets Without Cars,” which is about Madison, Wisconsin, one of the most bike-friendly cities in America. He returned to St. Stephen’s to teach physics. He also developed filmmaking classes and he authored a book called “Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts.” Lanier left SSES again – this time to help launch a video content company with a couple of other St. Stephen’s employees – and eventually found himself back on The Hill. He currently teaches science, technology, robotics and electronics courses.

“A recent graduate now attending the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT said the thing that's really different about Mr. Lanier is his unrivaled dedication to the students,” said Center. “The effort he puts forth into teaching makes his enthusiasm for the material quite contagious.”

Lanier also taught Center’s two sons who graduated from St. Stephen’s, and are now in college.

“Each time he leaves us he finds a new passion and then he brings that back to us, and for that we’re better,” says Center.
Gale Peña started at St. Stephen’s in 2003. She worked in the library, handled payroll and accounts payable. Today, she oversees student billing, which involves  helping all domestic and international families navigate the tuition payment process.Her husband Louis ran the Dining Hall from 1995 to 2005, and they have two children who graduated from St. Stephen’s. Gale’s son, Elliot ’11, also works on campus.
Crystal Guerrero, who now oversees the Business Office, is Pena's colleague and friend. Guerrero shared that Peña is a great seamstress and knits sweaters, including the sweater Guerrero was wearing that day in Chapel.

“There's not enough thank you’s in the world to show how much I appreciate you taking me as one of your own,” said Guerrero. “helping me through my most troubled times, and cheering me on in my most happiest moments.”
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213