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1998 Distinguished Graduate Award

    LTG John W. Morris '43 June

As a distinguished soldier, engineer, educator and public servant, John Woodland Morris has rendered a lifetime of extraordinary service to the civil engineering profession, to the United States Army and to his country. In successive positions of increasing responsibility, General Morris has exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy — Duty, Honor, Country.
In a career spanning more than five decades, the incomparable measure of his military engineering achievement has been demonstrated at every level of Army engineer command from platoon leader to Chief of Engineers.
Graduating from West Point in June 1943, General Morris began his career in military and civil engineering in the midst of World War II, building military airfields in the Pacific.
Following World War II, he attended the University of Iowa, earning his Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. In the decades that followed, he continued his military and civil engineering education, attending the Army Command and General Staff College, the Army War College, and the University of Pittsburgh.
In 1960, he was posted to Korea to command the 8th Engineer Battalion. Following his tour in Korea, he was assigned as the District Engineer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1965, he returned to his Alma Mater to command the 3d Regiment of the Corps of Cadets and later to serve as Deputy Commandant of Cadets.
General Morris next moved to the Pentagon, as Deputy Chief of Legislative Liaison, where he honed his Congressional negotiating skills, later to serve him so well in testimony before Congress. In 1969, he was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to Vietnam as Commanding General, 18th Engineer Brigade. In this role his command experience and inspired leadership were highly visible as his brigade provided outstanding combat support and carried out key military engineering projects, including the major highway construction program for the northern half of South Vietnam.
In 1970, General Morris assumed command of the Missouri River Division where he managed the Corps’ military construction and water resources programs throughout the eleven states of the Missouri River Basin. While in this position, he recognized the need to promote the public image of the Corps of Engineers, developing the slogan “The Corps Cares.” Widely publicized, this slogan helped gain much-needed public support of projects of substantial national importance.
In 1972, General Morris returned to the Pentagon, as the Director of Civil Works in the Office of the Chief of Engineers. His responsibilities included the planning, design, and implementation of the Corps’ three billion dollar national civil works program. As Director of Civil Works, he was repeatedly called upon to testify before Congress. His remarkable grasp of the civil works program and his adroit advocacy of its support ensured Congressional approval.
In 1976, General Morris was selected as the 44th Chief of Engineers. The hallmark of his tour as Chief was his recognition of the Corps’ responsibility to protect the environment and preserve the Nation’s resources. The decade of the 1970s brought the Corps of Engineers into frequent confrontation with environmental groups and no group was more critical that the Audubon Society of America. Yet in recognition of his leadership in developing “Environmental Consciousness in Engineering,” General Morris became the first recipient of the Society’s highest honor, The Palladium Award.
As Chief of Engineers, General Morris molded a strong and dynamic Army Support team. Under his leadership, the office of the Chief of Engineers and its subordinate commands were re-designated a Major Command of the Army. Within this new command, General Morris established a Directorate of Military Programs to provide more responsive engineer support to the Army worldwide. He also established a Foreign Projects office through which he executed a twenty billion dollar military design and construction program in Saudi Arabia and managed the urgent construction of the two military air bases in Israel.
In recognition of his contributions towards opening the Middle East to US Business, General Morris was chosen by the Engineering News Record as its “Construction Man of the Year,” the only military engineer ever to be so honored.
Following military retirement in 1980, General Morris continued his impressive career, gaining further distinction as an engineering management consultant. Soon after entering the civil sector, he personally prepared the dam safety “Terms of Reference,” which have become the worldwide safety standards imposed by the International Committee on Large Dams.
His similar work in the environmental arena led the International Navigation Congress to mandate environmental considerations in all design and maintenance programs for waterways and ports. For this seminal work, he was recognized by the King of Belgium with the Award of Excellence in Engineering.
Renowned for his peerless civil engineering expertise and stature, General Morris has been sought out by both national and international clients seeking his advice and assistance. He served on Presidential missions to Russia, China, and Egypt. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, to various Federal Agencies, and to several foreign governments.
General Morris’ post-retirement achievements have left their imprints in the field of education. In 1983, he personally drafted for the University of Maryland a 36-hour graduate level course in construction engineering management. He then was appointed First Chair Professor of this popular program. This experience led to his teaching a 3-week Management Course in Nanking, China, to top-level engineers involved with construction of the Three Gorges Dam. His other educational contributions include service as an Advisory Board Member for the Dean of Engineering and Mathematics at the University of Vermont and as guest lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Helsinki, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the University of Florida, the Army War College, and West Point.
General Morris’ engineering achievements have been recognized by every major sector of the civil engineering profession. Of his twenty-one professional awards, his most notable honor is his recent selection to receive the Founders Award of the National Academy of Engineering. This award, the most prestigious of the engineering profession, recognizes General Morris as one of the nation’s foremost engineers of the past thirty years.
West Point, the nation’s first engineering school, produced the engineers who built the nation’s infrastructure, making possible the attainment of its manifest destiny. General Morris’ lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment, a century and a half later, places him in the historic company of those earlier graduates.
General Morris’ career of uncommon achievement and selfless devotion serves as a magnificent example to others to emulate and clearly reflects the principles and ideals embedded in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 1998 Distinguished Graduate Award to John Woodland Morris, USMA Class of June 1943.

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