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Published: Tuesday, 12/10/2013

William P. Morris [1942-2013]; Ex-superintendent a ‘dynamic’ leader

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
William P. Morris. William P. Morris.
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MONROE — William P. Morris, 71, of Monroe, a longtime school superintendent who brought people together in support of education and, later, creating jobs in Monroe County, died Sunday in St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ypsilanti, Mich.

He had esophageal cancer, daughter Michelle said.

Mr. Morris retired in 2011 after 20 years as president of the Monroe County Industrial De-velopment Corp., a nonprofit agency started in the early 1980s to attract and retain jobs in the county. He was an agency founder and a former board chairman.

“He had the knack for bringing the right people together and getting them excited about something,” his daughter said.

And he trusted those enlisted in the cause to carry out their duties, said Tim Lake, who as a small business consultant worked on projects for Mr. Morris and the agency. “He gave you the mission and the goal, and let you do it,” said Mr. Lake, his successor as president of what’s now the Monroe County Business Development Corp.

Formerly of Lambertville, Mr. Morris was superintendent of the county’s intermediate school district, which serves public school districts and nonpublic schools, from 1978 to 1991. During his tenure, he was president of the Michigan Association of School Administrators and the American Association of School Administrators. He traveled the nation and world speaking on behalf of education and children.

He lobbied legislators in Lansing and knew congressmen. While leading the industrial development agency, he successfully led a campaign for a technology levy to benefit the county’s school districts.

“He knew how to go out and get the people he needed behind him,” his daughter said. “If he had a cause he believed in, he would do whatever he could to get the job done.”

He was called on frequently to emcee events and drew on the jokes and stories he collected — but didn’t read from a speech.

“He very much reminded me of President Reagan,” she said. “He had a couple notes jotted down. He was dynamic. People were drawn to him.”

He was Summerfield Schools’ superintendent from 1970-1978, winning passage in 1972 of a tax to build a high school. Mr. Morris had become principal and athletic director of the high school at age 26. He started his career teaching third grade for the River Rouge, Mich., public schools.

He was born Feb. 18, 1942, to Ruth and Atlee Morris and in 1960 graduated from Lincoln Park (Mich.) High School, where he played football and baseball. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Eastern Michigan University and coached semiprofessional football.

He was inducted in 1997 into the Michigan Education Hall of Fame and last year into the Monroe County Hall of Fame.

He also was in Eastern Michigan University’s Hall of Fame and received the state’s Liberty Bell Award.

He was formerly married to the late Dian Wigginton Mustapich.

Surviving are his daughters, Michelle Morris and Nicole Eastin; sister, Susan Knowles, and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today and from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Rupp Funeral Home, Monroe. Services will begin at 11 a.m. Friday in Monroe Missionary Baptist Church, where the body will be after 10 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the William P. Morris Memorial Fund at the Eastern Michigan University Foundation.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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