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Fr. Michael Morrison, Creighton University’s longest serving president dies

Fr. MorrisonEvery day was a great day for Creighton University according to the Rev. Michael G. Morrison, SJ, the former president of Creighton University who died Thursday, May 24, at St. Camillus in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 81.

Fr. Morrison, born March 9, 1937, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, served as the 22nd president of Creighton from 1981 to 2000, the longest tenure of a Creighton president. At the time of his retirement, almost 45 percent of the diplomas awarded by Creighton were signed by Fr. Morrison.

He saw Creighton as a “small, yet complex, Jesuit, Catholic university.” He also thought Creighton offered something valuable and distinctive, saying, “No other college or university is like us.” With strong commitments to excellence and keeping the University affordable, Fr. Morrison believed in providing the opportunity for a high-quality education to anyone who wanted it.

During his installation ceremony, the then 44-year-old Morrison told the audience Creighton’s Jesuit, Catholic background “means we have a tradition, a history upon which we have built, upon which we stand. As an educational institution, we respect the pluralism of viewpoints that exist. We invite, we encourage diversity of opinion, not because we wish to give up our own value system, but because we wish to see in the light of truth the value system that God has set before us.”

During Fr. Morrison’s tenure, the University built 10 new buildings, including the V.J. and Angela Skutt Student Center, the Beirne Research Tower, the Lied Education Center for the Arts and the Cardiac Center. He also established an undergraduate occupational therapy program, along with the initiation of the nation’s first doctoral program in physical therapy in 1993 and the nation’s first clinical doctoral program in occupational therapy in 1995.

Fr. Morrison also grew the endowment from $16 million in 1984 to more than $200 million as part of the Creighton 2000 campaign. That fundraising effort also helped generate more than $25 million in new scholarship funds and created 13 new endowed academic chairs between 1992 and 1998.

He became a member of the Jesuits in 1955 and was ordained in 1968. After earning five degrees, including a doctorate in philosophy from Saint Louis University and another doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he began his university teaching career at Marquette University in 1972, where he also served as vice president for academic affairs before coming to Creighton in 1977.

Despite his quiet demeanor, Fr. Morrison had a large presence on the Creighton campus. He is remembered by many for his daily walks and sitting on the wall by St. John’s Church on campus, happy to chat with anyone who came by. His presence was made even larger in 2004 after the newly completed state-of-the-art soccer stadium was named after him. The Michael G. Morrison, SJ Stadium remains one of the premier soccer venues in the nation.

He was very involved in the Omaha community and the Midwest at large. Over the past three decades, Fr. Morrison sat on the boards for dozens of schools and organizations. He was also the recipient of many awards, including the Nebraska Rotary Nebraskan of the Year in 2000.

Fr. Morrison continued his scholarly studies as a history professor at Creighton throughout his time as president and up until the 2010 school year.

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