|Morton retiring after 30 years of helping students
For three decades, Edward Morton has expertly guided UT Arlington students through the College of Science's pre-medical program, helping at least 1,500 of them gain admission to health profession schools. Counseling students, he says, is his life's calling.
But after spending 30 years advising students, Morton has decided it's time to call it a career. He's retiring in May from his roles as Assistant Dean of Science for Student Affairs, health professions advisor and the many other duties he has taken on over the years.
Morton's departure will leave a big void in the dean's office, and his friendly demeanor will be missed.
Morton says what he'll miss the most are his colleagues in the Dean's office and around campus.
"I think that will be the hardest thing, not visiting with people here every day," he said. "I've really enjoyed those professional relationships and the camaraderie."
Morton, who began working part-time in 2009, has made a profound difference in the lives of many students. Among them is Dr. Sean Ashrafian, who attended UT Arlington in the 1990s and earned an M.D. from the UT Austin Medical Branch in Galveston in 2004. Morton and Ashrafian became friends, even going sailing together on Morton's boat.
Morton obviously felt Ashrafian made the right career choice because he now uses Ashrafian as his personal care physician.
"I am where I am today because of what Ed enabled me to do," Ashrafian said. "Ed has been a mentor and a very good role model; he played a major role in my professional life. I'll never forget once before I was going to take an entrance exam, I told him I was really nervous, and he told me to study hard, and that would help me to be more comfortable and give me more confidence. To this day, I quote him when giving advice to others who are stressed out about exams."
Morton has received numerous awards for his superlative advising work, including the UT Arlington Outstanding Organization Advisor in 1993; the UT Arlington Professional Advisor of the Year award in 1999; and the National Academic Advising Association's National Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Student Advising in 1999.
Morton has worn many hats in his career at UT Arlington. He was hired in 1983 as health professions advisor, and by the end of his first year on the job, he had also been made Assistant Dean of Student Affairs by then-Dean of Science Howard Arnott. He has also served as pre-med curriculum coordinator; served as chair of the college's Grade Appeals Committee (since 1984); coordinated the college's academic advising for all six of its departments; handled health professions scholarships, including selection of recipients; approved all of the college's degree plans; edited the college's undergraduate course catalog; and directed the University's Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP), which provides services and support for economically disadvantaged students who wish to pursue a medical education.
In addition, Morton has chaired the University's Curriculum Committee, and has served as advisor to various student organizations, including the Medical Dental Preparatory Association, Student National Medical Association, Pre-Dental Society and Pre-Pharmacy Association. He created the College of Science academic standard of 2.25 overall and major GPA. His rigorous enforcement of the College's academic standards is also responsible for significantly improving the percentage of students who meet the standards. When he arrived, about 20 percent of students did not meet the standards, but the number now stands at just six percent.
Morton was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved frequently as he was growing up. He graduated from high school in Indiana in 1962, and because that's where his family was at the time, he decided to attend Indiana University. He earned a B.A. in Sociology and later added an M.S. in Philosophy.
"I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life," he said. "The dean of student affairs asked me if I would be interested in working at the university. I thought about it and realized I loved the college environment and didn't want to leave. He said there was a job open at Indiana and that I should apply for it, so I did."
Morton got that job, as a freshman counselor, and also began working on a second master's degree, this one in counseling, which he received a few years later. He later became director of admissions at Indiana, and might have stayed there forever but for his dislike of cold weather. That led him to accept a job offer from UT Arlington in 1983, and he and his wife, Anne, packed up and headed south.
Three decades later, he's decided to let someone else give the advice, hand out scholarships and monitor academic standards.
"I think it's time for me to step aside and let someone younger take over," he said. "I think in the past few years, a lot of students see me as a grandfather, and having someone younger in this job will allow for a better connection."
Morton has seen many changes in UT Arlington in 30 years, including its improved commitment to graduate students; the move to emphatically shed its "commuter school" image by greatly increasing the number of students living on or very near campus; and the change to a much more diverse student body. He has high praise for President James Spaniolo, who Morton says has built on the work of his predecessors and has taken the University to a whole new level with exponential increases in donations and research funding and an ambitious building plan.
"Just watching the things he's accomplished – wow!" Morton said of Spaniolo. "We're making incredible strides and a lot of that is due to him. I'll miss not being a part of such an exciting era at UT Arlington anymore."
He'll continue to monitor UT Arlington's growth, but now he'll be doing it from home. Now that he's made the decision to retire, Morton – who will turn 70 this spring – is looking forward to spending more time with Anne and to traveling, particularly to their home away from home in Florida. He's looking forward to sailing his boat, maybe doing some deep-sea fishing, and not having to be any particular place at any particular time.
"It's been a great experience working here. It's hard to believe 30 years have gone by already," he said. "The people are what have made this job so wonderful, and I'll miss them."
Probably not as much as the College of Science will miss him.