MU lost a faithful servant this week in the passing of D. Patrick Morton.
His contributions to MU are known well by those who worked closely with him but less so by many other faculty, staff and students who nevertheless benefited enormously from his contributions — not an uncommon legacy of many great people.
Pat’s work spanned an important period in university life and helped move the university forward on the national and international stage.
We all owe Pat a huge debt of gratitude, and for both my wife, Anne, and me that is a very personal debt. Pat retired in 2015 after being brought to University Health Affairs in 1977 by a fellow pacesetter, Chancellor Barbara Uehling.
After serving as CIO and CFO of Health Affairs and as a faculty member in Health Services Management, Pat moved to the Chancellor’s office as director of institutional research in 1993 to work with then-Chancellor Charles Kiesler; that’s when we crossed paths for the first time. We became close colleagues and worked together for the next two decades on a wide range of budgetary challenges until I departed at the end of 2013.
When we were both retired and no longer facing MU’s challenges and opportunities, the proximity of living around the corner from one another afforded ample opportunity to continue to strategize hypothetically myriad issues confronting higher education and the world. To all these discussions, Pat brought the great analytical mind, deliberative thought and data-driven perspective that characterized his entire career and for which he was greatly admired.
I know I speak for the entire chancellor’s staff through the nine-plus years we worked together in saying that the innovative, creative and practical strategies of Pat Morton simply awed everyone around him. He contributed directly and often indirectly behind the scenes to most of the major decisions we made and contributed critical insights to all of them. A frequent scenario was to lay out the budget cuts and withholdings we faced essentially every year, then simply wait until Pat could absorb all our thinking, reformulate and integrate, and come back with a recommended approach.
There was never any ego attached to his proposed solutions. Pat depended on good data, sound analysis and consideration of other sound alternatives that might be proposed. The sifting and winnowing involved in staff dialogue served a vital purpose and resulted in new and exciting changes that minimized damage to the campus and provided a stronger foundation for programmatic strength. Research and enrollment growth throughout this period are evidence of the merits of our approach.
Pat was content to remain behind the scenes and let others take credit for what he always viewed as “our joint success.” We cultivate more among us with this mix of talents and attributes.
There are few people so brilliant, so selfless and so embracing of others that they can be praised in this way, but Pat is one of them.
Above all, Pat was loved by everyone with whom he worked for his generosity as a team player, for his kindness to everyone, for his ready willingness to provide counsel even in areas beyond his job responsibilities.
On a more personal level, Pat was a voracious reader of all kinds of books, loved to cook as well as consume and loved to be with friends who loved the university.
I will miss my “Pat fix,” which I needed periodically throughout our working time, usually over a coffee break, a lunch or a walk, to strategize while he enjoyed his aromatic pipe. Those memories will only grow dearer over time.
Brady Deaton is chancellor emeritus at MU and worked closely with Pat Morton from 1994 to 2013.