University of Arizona Engineering alumnus John Rodgers recently established a perpetual scholarship in honor of Tom Morris, former head of the UA department of mining and metallurgy.
Rodgers graduated from UA in 1972 with a bachelor's in metallurgical engineering, and in 1974 with a master's in the same.
Rodgers describes his former professor and department head as “one of the greatest gentlemen I’ve ever met.” Tom Morris died in 1994 at age 78, and the metallurgical engineering major no longer exists, but both made an indelible impression on Rodgers as a Prescott High School senior in 1967.
Rodgers said that in high school he was uncertain about his career direction but had an interest in metallurgy, so he visited Morris on senior day in the spring of 1967. “He sat me down and explained all the ways he could help me financially through the course of my undergraduate education,” Rodgers said. “Tom cared a lot about his students.”
“I had no money, and neither did my parents. I survived college on scholarships and summer work in mines that Tom helped me secure,” Rodgers said. “Regardless of your background or where you came from, Tom was a very caring department head and teacher, and he did a lot for me and for many others. I’m establishing the scholarship to pass on the opportunity he gave me.”
After graduating from Columbia University, Morris worked in mining and served in the Navy as an executive lieutenant first class from 1944 to 1946. He then taught at Missouri School of Mines and got his PhD in 1950, and in 1959 he was invited to become head of the department of mining and metallurgy at UA, where he stayed until his retirement in 1981.
Over the years, metallurgical engineering has morphed into materials science and engineering, or MSE, and Rodgers has set up the Thomas M. Morris Memorial Scholarship to benefit underclassmen in the UA College of Engineering’s MSE department.
Rodgers is president of Acoustic Emission Consulting Inc., based in Sacramento, Calif. He was introduced to acoustic emission while serving in the Air Force from 1974 to 1979, and refined his expertise working for Acoustic Emission Technology Corp. from 1979 to 1991. Rodgers said that when he started his own company in 1991, specializing in using acoustic emission to detect cracks and defects in power plant pipes, he did so “with a great deal of trepidation.” He was 43 at the time with no job and a pregnant wife. “It’s never too late to become an entrepreneur,” he said.
After building up his business for 22 years, Rodgers said he has reached a point of financial solvency that enables him to give back to the University in his professor’s name. He also wants to convey a sense of obligation to current UA Engineering students. "You’re the best and the brightest, and you’ve got people willing to help you get through life and your education,” he said to the assembled students.
Rodgers hopes his scholarship will inspire others and is seeking additional donors to the Thomas M. Morris Memorial Scholarship. “As I near the end of my working career, thoughts about the plight of current and future students play on my conscience,” he said. “The need for skilled engineers in materials science and engineering is growing, and we need to help young people stay in school and graduate without overly burdensome debt.”
For details about how to contribute to the Thomas M. Morris Memorial Scholarship, please contact:
Kim Nyoni, Associate Director of Development
UA College of Engineering
PO Box 210119
Tucson, AZ 85721-0119
Gifts can be made online by visiting www.uafoundation.org/giving/engineering.
Please select “Other” from the “Designation” dropdown menu and type in “Tom Morris Scholarship.”