Campus recalls Robert Morris as friend and mentor

Topic: Administrative

November 30, 2016

Robert Morris
Calling hours for Robert Morris are at First Presbyterian Church in Muncie on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 3 to 7 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The funeral will be at the church at 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.

Ball State University is remembering the life and contributions of Robert Morris, who held numerous faculty and leadership positions on campus for 25 years until his death earlier this week.

Morris, 53, was serving as the university’s chief academic officer when he died Monday after a brief illness.

Interim President Terry King said Morris should be remembered for the positive effect he had on each member of the campus community.

“Over the years, Bob had an amazing ability to bring out the best in people around him,” King said. “He brought an enthusiasm with him every day that few of us could ever hope to match. We are deeply saddened by this loss, but we will remember the way he made all of us better.”

The president noted that Marilyn Buck, senior associate provost and dean of University College, will continue to lead the provost’s office. She had been in that role while Morris was hospitalized.

Morris graduated from Ball State in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and earned a doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990. He also was a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

He started his professional career as an assistant chemistry professor at Ball State in 1991 and was promoted to full professor, then chair of the chemistry department, dean of the Graduate School, associate provost for research, and, most recently, acting provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Carolyn Kapinus, acting associate vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, said Morris played an active role as a mentor to many faculty, staff and students through the years.

“Bob had a keen analytical mind and an amazing ability to connect with people across all walks of life with a caring heart,” she said. “In meetings, he would find a way to put people at ease and lighten the mood with his sense of humor, and he was never afraid to laugh at himself. He made so many contributions in crafting policies and building relationships across campus. I know he felt honored and humbled to serve his alma mater as acting provost.”

Morris, who graduated from nearby Wapahani High School in 1981, was proud of his local connections, said longtime friend Patti Lang, acting associate dean of the Honors College; she succeeded him as chemistry department chair.

Lang remembers many conversations with Morris in the early 1980s when both were chemistry majors.

“Bob saw what the faculty and the staff and the institution that is Ball State did for him — it opened up a world of opportunity, and that world suited him well,” she said. “He wanted nothing more in his life than to help other young men and women find and fulfill a dream that was bigger than the small schools and small towns where they were from. He did that, and I am so proud of him.”

As a result of his dedication to education, Morris and his wife, Sandy, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Ball State in 1984, established the Robert and Sandra Morris Scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 2012 to incoming freshmen pursuing a major in the Department of Chemistry. The couple also established the Sandra K. and Robert J. Morris Nursing Scholarship in 2009 to provide assistance to nursing majors.

In addition to his wife of 31 years, Morris is survived by two children, Chelsea, 27, and Jake, 23.

Calling hours are at First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of New York and Riverside avenues in Muncie, on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 3 to 7 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The funeral will be at the church at 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.

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