By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – “She was truly a Christian lady.”
Sylvia Lee Morris, who was employed at Campbellsville University 28 years from 1978 until 2006 and who was the university’s first woman vice president, died at 7:30 a.m. today at The Grand View in Campbellsville. She was 69.
Morris, who suffered a brain aneurysm in late November 2006, was dean of career services and counseling at CU, along with having served as student life director (1978-1982), vice president for student development (1982-1989) and dean of student services (1989-2000).
She served as dean of career services and counseling from 2000 until her illness.
Visitation for Morris will be from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at Bennett-Bertram Funeral Home in Hodgenville with the funeral Sunday at 2 p.m., also at the funeral home at 208 W. Water St., Hodgenville. Burial is in Red Hill Cemetery.
Morris had deep roots in Campbellsville University. She was a Campbellsville College graduate in 1973, receiving a bachelor of science degree in sociology. She also attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and received a master’s degree in religious education and social work.
“On behalf of the Campbellsville University family, we are saddened by the news of the passing of Ms. Sylvia Morris. Ms. Morris lived a life of Christian servant leadership and mentored countless students during her service at Campbellsville University,” Dr. Michael V. Carter, president, said.
“During my 14 years at president, I have received numerous comments from alumni of CU who shared stories of how Ms. Morris had positively impacted their lives. As the Apostle Paul said, she ‘fought the good fight’ during the past several years. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to her family and many friends,” he said.
Dr. W.R. Davenport, president emeritus who worked with Morris, said she was “outstanding” as a student and “in application and utilization of her training and experience, Miss Morris stood apart from most. After an undergraduate degree at Campbellsville College and a seminary masters, followed by some years of professional service in social work, she returned to Campbellsville to continue a career in counseling, leadership, and administration in student life and development. In that field, she was Campbellsville’s first female vice president—student life vice president—and full member of the President’s Administrative Council.
“She was a creative and productive contributor to our programs and a loyal and faithful supporter of me as president. She was dedicated to Jesus as Lord, committed to our institution, and totally devoted to our students and what was best for them.”
Morris was instrumental in the creation of Cornerstone Christian Counseling in Campbellsville and served on the board of advisors as a co-chair from 1999 to 2004.
Wanda Dobbins, who was counselor during Morris’ leadership with Cornerstone, said she and Morris met in the 1970s and their friendship continued since. When she and her husband, Dr. Jim Dobbins, were appointed missionaries to Chile in 1979, Morris, unknowing to Dobbins, clipped leaves of her many plants and made a special framed collage and sent to them.
“It was just one of hundreds of special ways she had of expressing her love and prayer support to us and to thousands more whose lives she touched,” she said.
While Dobbins was serving 18 years in Chile, she and Morris stayed in contact and dreamed of the counseling ministry that was developed in Campbellsville.
“Even during the most challenging circumstances of the aftermath of her surgery, Sylvia continued to bear witness to her love for God, for His work, for CU and her staff and students, for family and friends,” she said.
Dan Flanagan, who served in two vice president roles at CU and who was employed first as campus minister, worked with Morris during that time.
“Sylvia was a very loving, caring worker for us and certainly impacted lives of lots of students during her tenure at CU,” he said.
He remembers her brownies and cookies. “Many of the times when we would take Baptist Student Union mission trips and choir trips and she would make cookies or brownies and bring to students as we were leaving on mission trips.”
Dr. Frank Cheatham, senior vice president for academic affairs, said, “Sylvia Morris was dedicated to the mission of Campbellsville University. She enjoyed working with students and found great joy in their successes. Many years after their graduation students still ask about Ms. Morris. They appreciated her sincere concern for them as individuals. I enjoyed my many years of working with Sylvia.”
The Rev. Al Hardy, who was a long-time employee of Campbellsville University, said he met Morris when they were both visiting people at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown. He shared with her an opportunity at Campbellsville.
Hardy said, “All of us who knew her, knew of her unwavering love for Jesus and love for students. To the day of her illness, she continued to exemplify the love of Christ to all with whom she worked.”
Hardy said Morris always had a desire to see students develop into Christian leaders and did what she thought would contribute to her success. “She was truly a Christian lady,” Hardy said.
Pat Burkhart, who is a member of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees, said Morris was one of the first people she met at CU. She served on the student services committee with Morris for several years.
“I watched as she talked about her love for the students. I watched as she smiled and shared her love for the university and what it meant to her. She embodied everything I would expect from someone who was influencing my child on a college campus,” she said.
Phillip “Radar” Brumback, who was in financial aid at Campbellsville University when he knew her, said Morris was a “very special lady who has made a difference in countless individuals’ lives who are traveling on roads that without her efforts would now be lost and/or destroyed.”
“Heaven has acquired a good and faithful servant,” he said.
In April 2009, a group of individuals from CU led by Dave Walters, vice president for admissions and student services, presented Morris with a plaque of commendation from the CU Board of Trustees and a “Distinguished Christian Servant Award.”
Morris was originally from LaRue County where she graduated from LaRue County High School in 1962. Before joining CU, she was a social worker for the Kentucky Department for Human Resources and an outreach minister for Buffalo Baptist Church.
She received the Baptist Association of Student Affairs Educator of the Year Award in 1999, the Campbellsville Business & Professional Woman’s Club Woman of the Year Award in 1982 and was elected to the Religious Education Council at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1977. She was selected as a member of “Empire Who’s Who” in 2005.
As a student at Campbellsville College, she was selected to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities” in 1973. She was senior class president, received the Business & Professional Women’s Club Award and the Alumni Leadership Award, all in 1973. She received the Student Government Association Tiger Tamer Award in 1986.
She was a member of Campbellsville Baptist Church. She wrote several devotions in “College Faith,” “Upper Room,” Kentucky Missionary Union mission programs and Christian single magazines.
She also belonged to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, American Association of Christian Counseling, Baptist Association of Student Affairs and Kentucky Association of Women’s Deans, Administration in Colleges. Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,600 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master’s degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.