Dan Morris, mentor to a generation of journalists

By Kathleen Kreller

Note: Dan Morris was a longtime Idaho Press Club board member, and is the only person ever named a life member of the Idaho Press Club for his contributions to the organization. He died on March 20 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer; this article first appeared in the Idaho Statesman.

Boise State University officials said Dan Morris was surrounded by his family when he died Sunday, at the age of 59.

Morris retired from BSU last April after 23 years as a faculty member in the department of communication.

Morris taught classes in journalism and mass media and served as adviser to the Arbiter, the student newspaper.

“He was that voice that really believed in journalism, what it was at its core foundation,” said Brad Arendt, director of student media, who had worked with Morris since 1998. “For him, the biggest thing was being able to pass that on to students and to teach them what journalism really meant and what it really was.”

Recently, members of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network sought homes for Morris’ two cats, Toby and Jonah, who were like children to him. Permanent homes for those pets haven’t yet been found.

Morris had been absent from his post at BSU for about three years, Arendt said, while under treatment.

Arendt said Morris was a “good foil,” who often challenged him. The two worked side-by-side as a sort of “odd couple.”

“He did have kind of a different take on things,” Arendt said.

Arendt said he is grateful to have been able to tell Morris about his huge impact at the university, with students, and as adviser to the paper.

“He was a good friend and an incredible colleague. I miss him,” he said.

Morris graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University and a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

He had a wide variety of interests, including barbershop quartet. He influenced scores of journalism students at BSU.

James Patrick Kelly, who now advises the Arbiter, was also once the student paper’s editor.

“He left a definite imprint on many students over the years, whether they knew it or not. He was a quirky, lovable man who enjoyed good food and traveling the world,” Kelly said. “I’ll never forget our trip to New Orleans. Dr. Dan was so excited about going to the Acme Oyster House. Even though he was a big guy, we all had a hard time keeping up with him en route to the restaurant. He couldn’t wait to put on that bib and attack a tray of crayfish.”