Working to promote racial equity on campuses across Illinois

Charles and Jeanne Morris
Charles Morris (PhD Mathematics 1966) and his wife Jeanne

Throughout his career, Charles Morris (PhD Mathematics 1966) has worked to promote racial equity on campuses across Illinois. He is the founding chair of both the Illinois Consortium for Educational Opportunity Program Board and the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education. In 2014, the Dr. Charles Morris Annual STEM Fair for Underrepresented Students was established by several Illinois State University departments and organizations, and in June 2017 Charles Morris and his wife Jeanne were honored by the McLean County Museum of History as McLean County History Makers.

“For me, Illinois was the right choice in more ways than one,” Morris said, citing members of the mathematics department who helped him in his studies and in his personal life. Dr. John Walter accepted him as an advisee for doctoral study. Dr. Max Beberman, Director of the University of Illinois Committee on School Mathematics, (UICSM) “new math” project, hired him as a project staff member. In the latter capacity, Morris taught mathematics classes at the University High School. He felt fortunate to have as an additional mentor, Dr. Mahlon Day, Head of the University of Illinois Department of Mathematics.

“Segregation was very much alive at the UI. Housing was a problem,” he recalled. Morris said Joseph Landin, Director of the 1958-59 NSF Mathematics Institute at Illinois, arranged housing for all the students in the program, a move that made life easier for Morris and his wife. While Morris studied mathematics, his wife, Jeanne, who had an undergraduate degree in music, enrolled in graduate classes in education. Both earned doctorates from Illinois. After completing his doctorate at the UI, Morris joined the ISU mathematics faculty. Ultimately, he moved into administration, retiring in 1995 from the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the Illinois Board of Regents, then the oversight body for ISU, Sangamon State University and Northern Illinois University. After retiring, Morris continued associations with ISU as a Senior Associate Director with the Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology and Associate in the Center for Higher Education.

Over the years, Morris has received many awards and been appointed to many educational panels. One of his proudest activities is one he continues to this day, acting as a mentor for students high school age and younger who have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “It’s still fun for me. I’ve worked quite a bit in programs that provided mentoring, and I’ve never gotten away from it,” he said.