Statement on Dr. Marilyn Morris's Passing from the WGST Director
August 19, 2022
The Women's and Gender Studies and LGBTQ Studies Programs are deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Marilyn Morris's passing this week after a courageous battle with cancer. Today, with many others, we grieve Marilyn's loss and we celebrate her amazing life.
Marilyn was one of the first faculty members I was introduced to outside my own department when I started at UNT in 2013 and I was quickly and easily taken by the stories she shared about joining the History Department so many years ago, including what it felt like to live in Denton in the early 1990s as an out lesbian woman. Her courage then enabled my comfort now. Her efforts to found the LBGTQ Studies Program at UNT, her integral role in legitimizing the study of gender and sexuality at UNT, and the ways her presence created safe spaces for younger LGBTQ colleagues and students have had a powerful and reverberating effect.
In 2019, the Women's and Gender Studies Program took over as stewards for the LGBTQ Studies Program that Marilyn initiated. Upon doing so, we started an annual award in her honor. The Marilyn Morris Award for Outstanding Academic Contributions to LGBTQ Studies recognizes a faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ Studies Program at UNT. Award recipients represent the vanguard in creating innovative pedagogical and research strategies, fostering gender and sexuality as an analytical lens, and creating safe spaces for our students in the classroom. Appropriately, in 2019, Marilyn was the first faculty member at UNT to be awarded with this honor.
Dr. Clark Pomerleau, who is the award's most recent recipient, and the faculty member who bestowed the award to Marilyn 2019, provided some important history and context. He noted, "In 2003, Marilyn coordinated with a group of faculty members across campus to establish the Study of Sexualities Program--an SOS from LGBTQ faculty at UNT given the campus, state, and national climate at the time. She was instrumental in working with outside donors Howard and Maggie Wat to secure financial support for the program. Marilyn directed the program for its first six years. This precursor to LGBTQ Studies provided an intellectual hub for those who recognized sexuality as a valid area of academic research and teaching. But SOS did more. It carved out space in an institution where many of its affiliated faculty had experienced blatant sexism and homophobia. Housed in History and visible on the university website, SOS was a beacon that signaled that there were supportive, likeminded people at UNT. It reassured incoming scholars of sexuality like myself. As the climate changed in the country and locally, Marilyn led the way in changing the name of SOS to LGBT Studies (2009). She continued to co-direct the program until health problems in 2014, sharing leadership with a colleague whose department could provide more office and personnel resources."
I speak for many among us when I say it was an honor to work with Marilyn over the years and a delight to be in her company. We will miss her clever wit, her exacting analyses of the world around her, and the unbridled courage that propelled her (and many others of us) forward.
Megan Morrissey, Director of UNT Women's & Gender Studies Program
Dr. Clark Pomerleau presenting the award to Marilyn Morris