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Johnson Remembered as Student-Centered President
November 20, 2013
Morris F. Johnson III
Morris F. Johnson III, the seventh president of St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, passed away on Monday, Nov. 18, in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Johnson had suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease and had been a resident of the Emeritus at Hamilton House assisted living facility.
Two memorial services are planned in his honor – one in Phoenix, Ariz., where he spent 19 years as the vice president of student affairs and the dean of student development at Phoenix College, one of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College District. A second memorial service will be held in his home state of New Jersey.
Arrangements from the family and contact information for cards and charitable donations will be made available, once details are finalized.
Close friend and fraternity brother Ed Bailey, the retired dean of student support services at Meramec, remembers Mr. Johnson for his laughter and kindness.
“He was a very loving person, who always wanted to reach out and help others,” Bailey said. “He had a strong faith and was deeply religious. He was deeply concerned about educational enterprises and always wanted to do the best for students. He was fun loving and liked to laugh and spread humor. The last time we talked, before he lost his ability to speak, he ended the conversation with ‘love, peace and chicken grease,’ which was one of his funny sayings.”
They were members of the same fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, Inc., and the St. Louis affiliation, Upsilon Omega Graduate Chapter, and both disciples at Central Baptist Church on Washington Boulevard.
Mr. Johnson’s executive assistant at Forest Park, Donna Harmon, also recalls his joyful spirit and love for students.
“Students gravitated toward Mr. Johnson,” said Harmon, now with the STLCC Foundation office at the Cosand Center. “It was not uncommon to see him surrounded by students, out in the hallways, enjoying their company. He often kidded me when I was planning receptions, not to forget the red Kool Aid.”
Mr. Johnson came to the Forest Park campus as president in July 2005, almost a year after the death of the sixth president, Patricia Nichols. He served until June 2009. Under his leadership, the campus strengthened its global education initiative, conducted faculty and staff exchanges with two colleges in China and won the 2008 Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education for Internationalizing the Campus, presented by the Institute of International Education. Mr. Johnson also oversaw plans for expansion of the William J. Harrison Education Center.
Prior to joining the Maricopa system, Mr. Johnson served 12 years with Des Moines Area Community College. He held a master’s degree in psychiatric social work from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Dubuque University, Iowa. He completed post-graduate coursework toward a doctorate in higher education administration at Iowa State University.