2009 Honorary Degree Recipient
June 27, 2009
Dr. Thomas Q. Morris first came to Lebanon in 1982 as part of a team tasked by the New York State Department of Education to visit AUB's School of Medicine and to evaluate its accreditation, a process neglected for many years during Lebanon's civil war. He did not know and could not have imagined that this visit would be the beginning of a relationship to last almost 30 years and have a dramatic and lasting effect on the University.
In Beirut, he and a colleague from Columbia University, Dr. Frederic Herter, an AUB trustee, were met by the dean of the Medical School, Raja Khuri, who whisked them through checkpoints to the campus, where they stayed at Marquand House for a week while the team evaluated the Medical School. In a recent interview, Dr. Morris wrote about his impressions during that visit: "We saw the hospital convert itself from relative peace time function to a full time war hospital, when it would receive 50 odd casualties a day after a bombing, sometimes, many times a day. It was remarkable exposure to a resilient and enormously capable group of people serving at the hospital."
In addition to the dramatic and challenging circumstances they found at the hospital, Dr. Morris was also struck by the profound commitment of every member of the AUB community-from the trustees to the surgeons, the professors, the students, and even their parents, who stood by the University and pushed it forward. Two years later, in July 1985, Dr. Morris joined the AUB Board of Trustees. Over the ensuing 25 years, he has been a dedicated and compassionate advocate with an ambitious vision for AUB and a drive to see those visions fulfilled.
As a trustee, vice chair and, since 2005, chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Morris has led, encouraged, and supported many university initiatives including the 2004 accreditation of the University by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the reintroduction of PhD programs in 2007, and the appointment of the 15th president of the University, Peter F. Dorman, in 2008. He also provided strong leadership during the University's five-year fundraising Campaign for Excellence, which exceeded its $140 million goal to raise more than $171 million and was the largest educational fundraising initiative in the Arab Middle East. The results of the campaign can be seen throughout the University in the number of new and renovated facilities on campus such as the CCC Scientific Research Building, the Charles W. Hostler Student Center, the Rafic Hariri School of Nursing, and the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business.
The AUB Medical Center (AUBMC) complex also underwent extensive physical transformation with the establishment of the Abu-Haidar Neuroscience Institute, the Pierre Y. Aboukhater (Fahed) Medical Arts Facility, the Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute, the Mamdouha El-Sayed Bobst Breast Center, and the renovation of the Emergency Department. Given his strong background and extensive experience in medicine, it is not surprising that Dr. Morris has had a particularly strong influence at the Medical Center dating back to his first visit to AUB in 1982, when he was a member of the team that successfully recommended, and saw accepted, renewed accreditation of the Medical School by the New York State Department of Education. In 2004, he initiated the Board of Trustees Performance Improvement Committee, which determined new benchmarks for self evaluation and adherence to best practices at AUBMC, a key exercise that contributed to the Medical Center's receiving full accreditation by the Joint Commission International in 2008.
Dr. Morris graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1954 and earned his MD degree from the Department of Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S), Columbia University in 1958. After a tour of duty in the US Air Force, 1962-64, he went on to spend nearly 50 years at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. During that time he was a professor of Clinical Medicine at P&S, the chairman of Medicine, an associate dean of Academic Affairs, vice dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, vice president for Health Sciences, and interim dean. He was also president and chief executive officer of Presbyterian Hospital from 1985 to 1990.
Both his employers and alma maters have honored his professional work and steadfast dedication to medical education. Following his retirement in 2003, he was named the alumni professor emeritus of Clinical Medicine at Columbia and consultant emeritus at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The College of Physicians and Surgeons inaugurated the annual Dr. Thomas Q. Morris Symposium to honor his contributions to the college by recognizing participants who have made significant contributions to promote quality medical education. In 2000, the Presbyterian Hospital Alumni Society honored him as the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, and in 2001 he received the Columbia University Alumni Medal for Conspicuous Service. In 2002, he received the Gold Medal for Meritorious Service from the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Association of the Alumni.
A fellow of the American College of Physicians and diplomate, American Board of International Medicine, Dr. Morris became vice chair of the AUB Board of Trustees in 1994 and chairperson in 2005. He currently serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees of both the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York and the New York Academy of Medicine, which presented him the Academy Plaque in 1997. He is a former trustee of the Presbyterian Hospital in the City of New York, and current trustee of the Gladys Brooks Foundation, the Clark Foundation, and the William J. Matheson Foundation, where he was also president.
He has a long record of dedicating his expertise to improving medical education and public health initiatives on the local and national level in the United States. He is a former member of the State of New York Department of Health Commission on Graduate Medical Education, former president of Maxicare-New York, Inc., and former chairman of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York. He has also served on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the New York State Health Research Council's Advisory Panel on Primary Physicians and the New York City Mayoral AIDS Task Force.
Dr. Morris is a member of the Century Association, the Union League Club, the Harvey Society, the Hospital Society of New York, the New York Clinical Society (where he served as president in 1986), the New York Medical and Surgical Society (where he served as president in 1999), and the Society of Medical Administrators. Dr. Thomas Q. Morris has been a mentor and respected colleague to many throughout the University and its Medical Center for more than 25 years. His dedication to the University and his belief in its resilience and strength was matched only by his own.
The American University of Beirut proudly awards Dr. Thomas Q. Morris the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.