University Vice President and founder of the U’s Office of General Counsel John Morris died Feb. 16 from pancreatic cancer.
Beginning in 1979, Morris served for more than 10 years as a professor in the S.J. Quinney College of Law. In his position with General Counsel, starting in 1990, he advised five university presidents and countless university leaders. He also mentored attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals in the office.
“John had really good judgment and understood how universities work, having worked as a professor for so many years,” said Tom Parks, vice president for research, said. ”The Office of General Counsel is widely regarded as a model of legal counsel for universities.”
Morris was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer more than two years ago, a disease another member of his family had already died from. His concern with the cancer being hereditary helped him to get checked for it.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat in its later stages, as it grows slowly early on without any significant health effects and is difficult to detect. While it can be removed surgically if discovered early enough, a pancreatic diagnosis in its later stages typically signifies only months to live because it has spread. Morris applied his efforts and time to support the Skew Right research organization, which is focused on creating and developing an early detection test to find markers in blood for pancreatic cancer.
After his diagnosis, Morris fought the disease for more than 27 months — traveling, spending time with family and working in his position as vice president. Morris loved sports, particularly sailing and bicycle racing.
“We are deeply saddened by John’s passing,” said Elizabeth Winter, deputy general counsel and interim general counsel, “and will be forever grateful to him for his leadership.”
To honor his legacy at the U, the university will hold a memorial on March 4 in the Moot Courtroom on the sixth floor of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at 5 p.m.