Morris Morgan III, lauded professor and engineering education champion, dies at 72

Morris H. Morgan III, 72, died unexpectedly Feb. 25, 2022. Morgan was in the second class of African American students to attend Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1969 with a BS degree in chemical engineering at 19. In 2015, he received Vanderbilt’s Legacy Award as a pioneering African American alumnus.

Morris Morgan III

Morgan had been selected to join in 2022 the Vanderbilt School of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni for his academic achievements and leadership. He will be inducted posthumously at the Academy ceremony in April.

Morgan received a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Dayton and was the second African American to receive his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1978.

After a successful 13-year research stints at General Motors, Monsanto and General Electric Research and Development, Morgan returned to RPI and became the engineering school’s first tenured African American professor. In 2003, he delivered RPI’s Garnet D. Baltimore Lecture in recognition of his impact on engineering education.

Inspired by his parents, Morris championed efforts to encourage students to pursue advanced degrees, and he guided 12 engineering and mathematics masters and PhD students. He received numerous awards and recognitions from his students for his friendly, engaging, yet challenging professorial manner.

Morris began his tenure at Hampton University in 1996, as professor and Massey Chair of Environmental Engineering. From 1998 to 2003, he served as the second dean of the HU School of Engineering and Technology. As dean, he secured funding for a NASA-funded Aero-Propulsion Center, a Virtual Parts Manufacturing Center, and initiated the computer engineering degree program.

Upon returning to the faculty in 2004, he continued his research in designing hypersonic vehicle body structures, modeling boron nitride nanomaterial reactors and designing industrial spouted bed systems, a field in which he garnered world-class prominence.

In 2008, he was a Virginia Outstanding Scientist Award candidate for his research contributions to fluid-particle systems. He published 96 research articles, six book chapters, and held four patents. He was a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Statistical Association.

After a 21-year career at Hampton University, he retired and was recognized for his dedication to enhancing the academic excellence of his students and for being an advocate for enhanced research opportunities.

Morris was an avid athlete and runner. In his youth, he was a sprinter and set the Cedar Hill High School, Cedartown, Georgia, 4X100 meter record in 1965, which stood for over 40 years. He had run more than 65,000 miles in the past 50 years. He competed in numerous masters and senior road races, track competitions and triathlons.

Morgan is survived by his wife, Carolyn Bradshaw Morgan, Ph.D., BA’69, his son Eric A. Morgan, MBA, and daughter-in-law Sarah Van Doren; daughter Kristin D. Morgan, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering, University of Connecticut-Storrs; one brother, three sisters, and a number of extended family members.

A service will be held March 11, 2022, at Williamsburg Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. Memorial donations be made to the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, 727 Scotland Street, Williamsburg, VA, 23185.

Contact:  Brenda Ellis, 6i5 343-6314