Morris makes final appearance at naming of plaza


Joseph Pratt | Portsmouth Daily Times
June Business After Hours and the naming of Founders Plaza at SSU

Joseph Pratt | Portsmouth Daily Times
June Business After Hours and the naming of Founders Plaza at SSU

Joseph Pratt | Daily Times Dr. Rita Morris talking amongst peers at the June Business After Hours and the naming of Founders Plaza at SSU.

By Joseph Pratt

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Shawnee State University President Dr. Rita Morris hosted a formal naming ceremony in “Founder’s Plaza” at the university on Thursday. The ceremony was also the location of this month’s Business After Hours — an event held for members of the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce.

During the naming ceremony, Morris announced it would be her final appearance as acting president of the campus, before she retires in just a few weeks.

“You’re standing in what I’ve been calling the heart of campus. Founders Plaza,” Morris said. “This square symbolically connects our past with our present – and our future.”

Morris went on to explain how the newly names Founders Plaza fits into relation with surrounding Shawnee areas.

“We have the James A. Rhodes Athletic Center immediately to the west and the Vern Riffe Center to the north. These buildings were named for two leaders who had a shared vision for higher education in this part of the state – and made Shawnee State University possible. As you entered the plaza, you passed Trustees Grove – where a line of dogwood trees serve as a special recognition to those who furthered the Shawnee State University mission, through their service as trustees. To the east, we are connected to our academic core and center of student activity. And, to the south, we have the entryway to our new commencement platform – where students receive their Shawnee State University degrees and begin making plans for how they will use those degrees in this – and other communities all over the world.”

Morris said that the spring commencement was held on the new stage and she shook the hands of 534 graduates. She explained that 4,000 friends and family surrounded the spot that she stood, which gave her the realization that the new space encapsulates everything Shawnee stands for.

Morris also spoke about her retirement and leaving the community.

“As you may have heard, I’m retiring in a couple of weeks. Today’s dedication is my final public act as President of Shawnee State University,” Morris said. “As I look out at friends, colleagues, supporters – and in some cases, partners in crime – I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and pride. You welcomed me and Jim into this community 12 years ago and through the years, we accomplished a great deal together. We took what Rhodes, Riffe, and other founding leaders started here, and we made a difference in the lives of students and those who live in this community.

“It’s fitting, for me, to end my career from Shawnee State University, dedicating a space that serves as a visual reminder of how we began and the lives that are impacted through the education they receive here.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03

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