For immediate release
Aug. 15, 2002
Dr. Royce Money said it makes him tired just to think about serving as a college president for 29 years, but that's the length of time in that office at Abilene Christian University for the late Dr. Don H. Morris, who was honored here Tuesday on the 100th anniversary of his birthdate.
Morris, who was born Aug. 13, 1902, in DeSoto, Texas, served as president of ACU from June 1, 1940, to Aug. 31, 1969. He died Jan. 9, 1974, while serving as chancellor of a school that grew from 652 students to 3,110, added 11 buildings and a graduate school, and first became accredited while he was president.
"It is with great gratitude and a sense of humility that 100 years later we stop to honor this man," Money, ACU's current president, said. "I often wish these walls could talk," he thinks as he sits in his office in Hardin Administration Building.
Money, the 10th president of a school about to start its 97th year, was one of five tribute speakers Tuesday in a sold-out centennial dinner that attracted about 250 people, including several Morris family members. He's starting his 12th year as ACU president, and he says Morris' tenure of 29 years "will never be duplicated."
Morris, 1924 graduate of Abilene Christian, taught at Abilene High School and Abilene Christian before becoming the school's seventh president.
Dr. John C. Stevens, historian who followed Morris as president, called him "a unique, amazingly remarkable man." Morris was Stevens' first college professor at Abilene Christian in 1934, and Stevens served as assistant president for Morris before assuming the presidency.
Stevens and Money both talked about the financial pressures Morris and the young, growing school overcame to reach its current enrollment of nearly 5,000 students. Stevens said the school, in debt since its beginning in 1906, became debt-free for the first time during Morris' presidency in 1943.
Kay Skelton of Denison, ACU graduate and daughter of the late A.M. (Tonto) Coleman, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and a former football coach at ACU, Florida and Georgia Tech, remembered Morris as her mother's history teacher at AHS and her father's employer. "I represent the legions of friends untitled and unofficed who he made to feel important," Skelton said.
Skelton remembers as a teenager answering the family's home phone and talking to people such as Bear Bryant, Darrell Royal, Frank Broyles and President Ford, but none was as impressive as Morris. "He was a tireless encourager of men like my father," she said. "He made every member of his staff feel a partnership in the vision he had...They very much believed in the man."
Two other former ACU students who talked about Morris as their college president in the 1950s were Richard and Dema Lunsford of Olney. Dema remembers being invited to Morris' home for dinner the first week of her freshman year. "He has made a difference in the standard I have set for myself," she said. "I knew when I met him I was in the presence of greatness."
Richard added, "He inspired and encouraged me to always do my best. President Morris was teaching me character traits by modeling them in his own life. He was a marvelous man."
An academic building, scholarship fund and the society of people who donate to ACU's Annual Fund are named in honor of Morris, whose son, Abilene businessman Tommy Morris of Abilene, serves on the university's Board of Trustees.
If you are a member of the media who would like more information about this release, please contact Wendy Kilmer, university news coordinator.