Fresh out of the doctoral program at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Bud Morgan arrived at Missouri Southern State University in 1971.
At the time the school was making its transition from a two-year to a four-year institution. Morgan applied to several bigger universities but someone suggested to him that he would likely start out teaching upper-level classes if he took a job at MSSU because it was expanding both its offerings and faculty.
“It was my department head in Colorado who told me that if I took the position there (at MSSU), I’d be on the ground floor of a brand-new enterprise, and that was really attractive to me,” he said. “Having that opportunity as a professor that I would not have had at a major university, when I look back on it, I see that it was absolutely the right decision. A lot of us young guys came in and had the unique opportunity to build a senior English program.”
Morgan is one of three former MSSU employees — with a combined 100 years experience — who recently sat down with the Globe to provide a glimpse into the school from an educator’s perspective.
‘It has been my life’
Over the years, Morgan tinkered with and tailored his program from the third floor of Hearnes Hall, taking pride in creating courses about 20th Century fiction, black American literature and seminars about William Faulkner and American novels.
He also created a program for the English department that gives cash awards to students who excel academically.
“I remember ... being really impressed with the caliber of students that we had here,” he said. “They were very, very bright, by and large. Some of the brightest people I’ve ever known, I met here.”
After three decades at MSSU (he retired in 2001), Morgan still remembers the handful of students who left the biggest impression on him. There was the 38-year-old married woman, a mother of three, who was the school’s first nontraditional student accepted into the honors program in the 1980s. There was the woman who came back to school after becoming a mother to two children and “knocked the top off” the entrance exam. And there was the 18-year-old from Galena, Kan., who “had no idea how bright she was” and left MSSU with a 4.0 grade point average, eventually opening a counseling practice.
Teaching wasn’t always easy, and Morgan said at times he was frustrated with MSSU administration, but at the end of the day Morgan remembers the young lives he was able to reach through his English classes.
“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything on Earth,” he said. “It has been my life, and I don’t know what else I might have done at any point in my life, and it’s because of students.”