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More Than 45 Years of Doing It Right

Posted by on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 in Digest, Spring 2010.

Mary Jean Morris
Mary Jean Morris

Mary Jean Morris isn’t predicting how long it’ll take her to clean out her office. After all, she had a long time to settle into it.

Morris retired from her position as research associate with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering on December 31, 2009, after just over 45 years at Vanderbilt—41 of those with environmental engineering.

She started at Vanderbilt on July 6, 1964, soon after earning her master’s from Tennessee Technological University. At VUSE, Morris worked in research, as a laboratory assistant and taught laboratory classes. Most recently, she served as laboratory manager and safety officer for civil and environmental engineering.

Over the years, Morris has been acknowledged in countless student dissertations for generously providing her time and for her consummate knowledge of laboratory proceedings.

“Mary Jean has an amazing talent for understanding and teaching laboratory protocol,” says colleague Lewis Saettel, manager of electrical engineering and computer science. “Her expertise is in the field of ‘how to do it right’.”

Morris’ institutional memory and stern, yet wry manner enthralled students and colleagues alike. “Students who took her lab courses wrote on their evaluations that they were well-informed and fortunate to have her as a safety manager,” says Senior Research Scientist Rossane DeLapp. “However, I think one of her greatest contributions to our department is her role as guardian of its colorful history.”

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Bob Stammer, BE’72, says the department will miss her dependability and sense of humor. “Future students will miss getting to know a Vanderbilt legend. I do not want to imply that she had been here a long time,” he says, “but she was here when I was an undergraduate CE student … and I have been on the Vanderbilt payroll for 29 years now.”