Dr. Thomas R. Morris Honored at University of Mount Olive

MOUNT OLIVE – Longtime friend and benefactor of the University of Mount Olive, Dr. Thomas R. Morris, was recently recognized by the University for his generosity, encouraging spirit and Christian heritage.  A retired Goldsboro Optometrist, Morris was born and reared in Wayne County with strong Free Will Baptist roots.  He graduated from high school in Nahunta and financed his way through UNC-Chapel Hill and the School of Optometry in Memphis by working at night and selling books door-to-door during the summers.  After college, Morris returned to Wayne County and became not only a successful optometrist but also a noted speaker.

Commissioned a medical officer in the U. S. Army during the Korean Conflict, Morris retired as a Lt. Colonel.  Diagnosed with glaucoma, he decided to travel and enjoy seeing things while he could and has toured in more than 150 countries and been on eight around-the-world trips.  Totally blind for nearly 40 years and unable to follow his chosen profession, Morris has turned to real estate and other investments.  In reflecting over these investments, Morris feels that “God has blessed me abundantly.”

In response, Morris contributes generously to Christian causes associated with the Free Will Baptist denomination, including the University of Mount Olive.  Through his generosity he has funded various awards at UMO designed to encourage and reward excellence for student academic achievement, faculty teaching, pastoral work and lay services to the FWB church.  Knowing the hardship of financing a college education, he has also established an endowed scholarship fund in memory of his parents, Joseph T. and Sallie Pittman Morris.

Morris has contributed $100,000 to the University for a ministerial loan fund.  Additionally he has given $100,000 for the Free Will Baptist Heritage Room located in the University’s library.  The Heritage Room houses the largest collection of historical resources and memorabilia of Original Free Will Baptists in the United States.

For all of his gifts to the University and in recognition of his unwavering support of the OFWB denomination, the University recently held an event to honor Morris.  Present at the event was the leadership for every ministry of the OFWB denomination.  In a special ceremony which included a litany of dedication, a portrait of Morris was unveiled and now currently hangs at the entrance to the Heritage Room.

Dr. John Blackwell, vice president for Institutional Advancement at UMO, said, “Dr. Morris is a true friend of the University of Mount Olive.  He understands the University’s roots in the Free Will Baptist Church and its humble beginnings, and he appreciates its Christian mission.  His generosity has provided scholarships and awarded excellence to many students and faculty, and we are pleased today to honor him in this most special way.”

Gary Barefoot, curator of the FWB Historical Collection said, “I have no doubt that the gift that Dr. Morris made for the housing of this Collection of FWB materials was and will continue to be one of the most significant gifts to the library of the University and to the denomination that could ever be received, because the gift supports an element unique to this place – the Free Will Baptist Historical Collection, a gem for posterity.  Thank you Dr. Morris, our mutual friend.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit old.umo.edu.