Fairfield alumnus Kathleen Murphy ’84 has joined the likes of Oprah Winfrey and other female leaders in being named one of the most powerful women in business by FORTUNE Magazine.

Murphy, who currently holds the position of chief financial officer of ING’s U.S. Wealth Management division, debuted at No. 40 out of 50 on this prestigious list published by FORTUNE.

Not only did Murphy graduate from Fairfield University summa cum laude with a double major in economics and political science, but advanced placement credit helped her earn her degree in only three years.

“It [the economics and political science double major] was a good balance. The combination really helped define my career after law school,” said Murphy.

She earned her juris doctorate degree with honors from the University of Connecticut.

Despite the high salary offers at top law firms in New York City, after earning her law degree Murphy opted to work in the law department of Aetna Financial Services, a multi-line insurance company. Aetna was later acquired by ING., and Murphy has held a variety of impressive positions at the company since.

“My position [in the law department] required me to really know the business side of things,” said Murphy. “Four years ago I made the switch from the legal side to the business side.”

Now, as the CEO of the U.S. Wealth Management division of ING in Hartford, Conn., Murphy is making her mark.

Last year, assets under management grew 12 percent, to $158 billion, and after-tax profits grew 28 percent, to $708 million, according to FORTUNE.

She is also a mother and gives back to the community by serving as chairperson for the American Red Cross Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign in Connecticut.

FORTUNE’s rankings are based both on the size and scale of the businesses the women manage as well as the individual’s career progression and other milestones. PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi topped the list.

Women account for 15.6 percent of 10,145 corporate officer positions (chief financial officer, chief information officer or higher) in the 500 largest U.S. corporations and this number that has stayed relatively flat for the past four years, according to Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization that tracks women in business.

Asked about the challenges of being a female in the business setting, Murphy said she observed that there aren’t many women in the higher positions of financial services but that it is possible to achieve with hard work.

“My view is that, as a woman, you have a bigger burden in establishing yourself, but, if you are good and deliver, then you establish that credibility,” said Murphy.

Her advice for female students planning to go into business after graduation is: “Be relationship-driven, but most of all deliver.”

Murphy felt well-prepared by Fairfield. She said that there was a diversity of teachers, most of whom were very empowering to women.

She noted Edward Deak, professor of economics and Carmen Donnaruma, a former Fairfield professor of political science, as two particularly influential professors.

“The environment at Fairfield is very helpful. It’s a Jesuit school, so it emphasizes that every person has a contribution to make,” said Murphy.

“I thought it was a very positive platform to move from into the business word,” she said.

Deak remembers Murphy as an excellent student.

“Every once in a while, as in this case, I hear back from a student after a number of years and learn of their success and how I might have contributed to that in some small way. It makes my own career choice here at Fairfield seem worth while,” said Deak.

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