Retired College History Teacher Makes Higher Education Possible for Many
Access Arkansas, launched in 2007 at the University of Arkansas, is a program committed to raising money for need-based scholarship support. Lower- and middle-income Arkansans are finding it harder and harder to pay for a college education. Many face a significant funding gap, which is the difference between the cost to attend the university and the money a student can secure from all sources, including family, scholarships, grants and loans. At the same time, having a college degree is becoming more essential than ever for individuals to be competitive within the current job market. Recent Census Bureau data show the average salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree is $23,000 more than the average salary of a non-degreed individual. A minimum gift of $50,000 is required to establish a named Access Arkansas endowment and can be pledged over a five-year period.
If you are interested in learning more about ways to support the students, faculty and programs in the College of Education and Health Professions, please do not hesitate to contact our development staff at 479-575-3208 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
John Morris' scholarship giving reflects his life. His gifts to the University of Arkansas are helping students who share his interests or who are pursuing subjects he chose as a way to honor his family.
Morris was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1937 and moved to Arkansas when he was 8. He graduated from Farmington High School and the University of Arkansas, leaving Fayetteville for military service in 1960 and returning in 2000, following his retirement from the military and a 25-year teaching career at Wharton Community College in Wharton, Texas, 50 miles southwest of Houston.
Morris' retirement didn't stick for long – since returning to Arkansas, he taught history part time for eight years at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and now volunteers for Community Emergency Outreach, a program funded by area churches to help people in the region with rental assistance, food, gasoline, job counseling and referrals to other agencies.
Single with no children, Morris found another way to have an impact on young people, topping decades of teaching history in Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas. He has contributed to two Chancellor's Scholarships and funded five Access Arkansas Scholarships, which include two in the College of Education and Health Professions.
"The Access Arkansas program appealed to me," Morris said. "As teachers, we all like to have the top student, the self-motivated student who has good academic skills, but sometimes those students and others who qualify to attend the university face real financial challenges. Those students need support, too."
The Access Arkansas Scholarships are designated for students in five academic programs:
- History. Morris earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Arkansas in 1959 and – having participated in advanced ROTC throughout his college years – he was commissioned as a second lieutenant following graduation. After teaching school in Farmington for one year, he was posted to the Army Intelligence Corps in Baltimore, an assignment he attributes to his history degree. He then spent three years on active duty in Germany, followed by a tour of duty in Vietnam. An elderly aunt he took care of after returning to Fayetteville also possessed a keen interest in history – local, family history. A room at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale is furnished with items she donated from the Reed and McGarrah families, Morris' ancestors.
- Education. Morris' paternal grandfather was a teacher and, although he died before Morris was born, people in Washington County frequently approached him to say they had known "Professor Morris."
- Music. A pianist who began playing classical music as a young boy, Morris auditioned for a music scholarship at the university and received one, but then gave it up when he decided to major in education because the music curriculum didn't allow him to take as many courses in social sciences and humanities as he wished. He later transferred to the university's college of arts and sciences. He enjoyed attending symphonic performances for years while living near Houston and recently took an elder hostel seminar in music at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
- Nursing. This scholarship honors his mother, who was a nurse.
- Business. This scholarship honors a former student and friend who majored in business.
Although he designated the Access Arkansas scholarships for several disciplines, it's clear that Morris' priority is students and education.
John Morris talks about his interest in helping students.
"I have a great love for the University of Arkansas," said Morris, who also holds a master's degree in history from the university and another one in library and information science from George Peabody College for Teachers. He completed coursework at the University of Kansas for a doctorate but was not able to finish his dissertation based on research in South America because of a visa problem. "I learned academic discipline here at the University of Arkansas. I had wonderful teachers – people such as Ann Vizzier, Robert Reeser and Paige Mulhollan – who could inspire students to devote themselves to their studies, to study beyond the classroom. Teachers here created that academic desire in me to go beyond the textbook.
"I tried to use what I learned of their teaching styles in my classroom," Morris continued. "There's nothing like seeing a student come into your class and take root. It's wonderful to see a student blossom."