04/29/14 — Morris recognized by University of Mount Olive

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Morris recognized by University of Mount Olive

By From staff reports
Published in News on April 29, 2014 1:46 PM

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Dr. Thomas R. Morris addresses the group at an event held in his honor at the University of Mount Olive. A portrait of Morris now hangs at the entrance to the university's Heritage Room.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Dr. Thomas R. Morris, a retired Goldsboro optometrist, has been recognized by the University of Mount Olive for his "generosity, encouraging spirit and Christian heritage."

During a program held at the university, which included a litany of dedication, a portrait of Morris was unveiled and now hangs at the entrance of the Heritage Room in the university's library.

The ceremony was in recognition of all of Morris' gifts to the university and of his "unwavering" support of the Original Free Will Baptist denomination, university officials said.

Present at the event was the leadership for every ministry of the Original Free Will Baptist denomination.

"Dr. Morris is a true friend of the University of Mount Olive," said Dr. John Blackwell, UMO vice president for institutional advancement. "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."

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 which houses the largest collection of historical resources and memorabilia of Original Free Will Baptists in the United States.

Gary Barefoot, collection curator, said, "I have no doubt that the gift that Dr. Morris made for the housing of this collection of Free Will Baptist 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."

Morris was born and reared in Wayne County with strong Free Will Baptist roots. He graduated from Nahunta High School.

He paid 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. He 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 turned to real estate and other investments. In reflecting over these investments, Morris said he 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 firsthand 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.