University of Texas - Pan American
William Lee "Bill" Morris has been a friend, mentor, and colleague to countless TACRAO members for over 4 decades. Over that time, he's been known by many endearing nicknames, ranging from "Uncle Bill" to "Mr. Bill" to my personal favorite, "Wild Bill". Regardless of how you refer to him, there's no denying that Bill Morris has served our organization and Texas higher education with unparalleled dedication and distinction for more years than he (and many of his friends here tonight) would care to admit.
After earning his B.S. degree in Astro-Science in 1968 from what was then Pan American College in Edinburg, Bill began his career in higher education as the Transcript Evaluation Clerk in the Registrar's Office at Pan American College. While rising through the ranks, he continued his education, earning both a BBA and an MBA from Pan American University. Over the next 40 years, Bill continued to rise through the ranks at Pan American, holding an array of positions that included Director of Admissions, Director of Institutional Research, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Registrar, and most recently, Director of the Student Data Analysis and Projects Office, a position he held upon retiring from the University of Texas Pan American in August 2011.
Bill was honored to receive various awards over the years from Pan American, including the Outstanding Staff Member and Outstanding Alumni award. He's chalked up a few from TACRAO as well, but is most proud to have been recognized not once, but twice by TACRAO's leadership with the TACRAO President's Award for distinguished service.
Bill has served TACRAO in enumerable ways, from delivering countless presentations, to chairing various committees, mentoring hundreds of newcomers, and serving on multiple Executive Committees. He was our organization's Treasurer and later became President in 1999. But the hallmark of Bill's service, and perhaps the thing that distinguishes him most is the relentless effort he's contributed to our organization day-in and day-out, year after year, behind the scenes. He managed the TACRAO web site for over 15 years, developed the online conference planning system, implemented our online elections system, built the online membership directory, served on various committees for the Coordinating Board, helped establish the Universities Summer meetings, provided LAC support to just about every TACRAO meeting held south of San Antonio, and he continued to support the Technology Committee for so many years after he officially left it that this prompted the TEC to actually create a new "ex-officio" position just for him (I suppose so they could sleep at night knowing how much he was doing without being a member, or maybe it was to help Bill convince his bosses that he was actually working all those hours!). Bill has of course been active in SACRAO and AACRAO as well throughout his tenure; however, as he is quick to point out, many of the colleagues he's met through TACRAO have developed into his most cherished, lifelong friends.
Those who know Bill will attest that he not only works hard, but he plays hard too. Having a particular affinity to theme parks, he's an avid collector of Disney memorabilia. He has visited DisneyWorld at least 9 times, and been to Disneyland a few times as well. The first time I met Bill was at Disneyland in Anaheim at an annual meeting of the SIS+ users group. Our conference host, SCT, actually rented the entire theme part one evening just for us. I'll never forget seeing the look of shear glee on Bill's face as he realized he could ride any ride he wanted without having to wait in line! He proceeded to ride Space Mountain over and over and over, dragging me along with him. Thankfully, just about the time the rest of us were ready to lose our dinner, a fireworks display kicked off at the Magic Kingdom prompting Bill to take mercy on us and let us off the ride. But then we had to chase after him across the park when he ran full blast for a chance to shake Mickey's hand.
Bill has a unique combination of incredible technical skills, people skills, and knowledge of the profession. But overriding all of this is his desire to deliver exceptional student service and his genuine care for students and student success. UTPA's student population consists of a large number of first-generation students, and the university has been instrumental in raising the average education attainment level of the Valley region. According to Bill, "I guess that's the thing I'm the proudest of in being associated with this institution - that it's able to provide that for the student."
In his retirement, Bill looks forward to selling his recently flooded out home in Edinburg (you'll have to ask him about this yourself) and moving to the New Braunfels area where he will be a little bit closer to his two brothers, John and Tom, and also to his 5 Godchildren, whom he considers surrogate family.
No one who knows Bill Morris will ever doubt that he set the bar for outstanding TACRAO service at a level that would be hard, if not impossible to match. Anyone fortunate enough to be considered in the same ball park (or in Bill's case, "theme park") should be proud. It's with great pleasure that I recognize Bill Morris' honorary membership in TACRAO