05/04/05 — Mount Olive College commencement Saturday

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Mount Olive College commencement Saturday

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 4, 2005 1:48 PM

From staff reports

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College will graduate around 300 students at its 51st spring graduation exercises Saturday. Ceremonies begin at 2 p.m. in College Hall.

Commencement speaker will be Dr. Thomas R. Morris, a retired Goldsboro optometrist. Morris, born and raised in Wayne County with strong Free Will Baptist roots, graduated from high school in Nahunta and financed his way through UNC-Chapel Hill and the School of Optometry in Memphis by working nights and selling books door-to-door during the summers.

After college, he returned to Wayne County and became a successful optometrist and a noted speaker. He was also commissioned a medical officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Diagnosed with glaucoma, he decided to travel and enjoy seeing the world while he could, touring more than 150 countries and going on eight around-the-world trips. Totally blind for more than 30 years and unable to follow his chosen profession, he has turned to real estate and other investments.

Still, Dr. Morris says he feels that "God has blessed me abundantly." He has chosen to contribute to a variety of Christian causes, including Mount Olive College. He has been a strong supporter and friend of Mount Olive for years, funding 10 scholarship awards designed to encourage and reward excellence for student academic achievement, faculty teaching, pastoral work and lay services to the FWB church. He also established an endowed scholarship fund in memory of his parents, Joseph T. and Sallie Pittman Morris.

In 2001, Morris contributed $100,000 for a ministerial loan fund. The next year, he donated $100,000 to sponsor the Free Will Baptist Heritage Room, which will house the collection of historical resources and memorabilia of Original Free Will Baptists, in the college's new communication building.

"Dr. Morris is a true friend of MOC," said Rev. Jeff Daughtry, director of planned giving at the college. "He understands the college's roots in the Free Will Baptist church and its humble beginnings, and appreciates its Christian mission.

"His generosity has provided scholarships and awarded excellence to many MOC students and faculty."

Prior to commencement, the college will hold its traditional graduation worship service at 10:30 a.m. in Rodgers Chapel. The Rev. Dr. Tyanna Day, associate professor of religion at Mount Olive College, will be the keynote speaker.

Dr. Day joined the college in 1995, having earned her bachelor's degree in special education from Hood College in Frederick, Md. She also holds Master of Divinity degree in Christian education from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest and a doctorate in Christian spirituality from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in spirituality from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.