Professor known for free hugs wins award

September 2, 2014 Feature Print Print

At the Annual Convocation and Awards Ceremony Aug. 12, President Paul Sechrist presented the Elven Gray award to English professor Stephen Morrow.

In 1991, OCCC created the award to recognize employees who exhibit the characteristics of Elven Gray, who was described as a “one of the college’s most dedicated and inspiring employees,” and “a gentleman who always, no matter what his circumstances, went above and beyond to serve others.” Morrow said he is honored to win such a prestigious college award. The Elven Gray award is the most important award given, he said. However, Morrow said, being humble is best.

“It’s very, very nice to win a college award, but the flipside of that is what Plato put in his ‘Republic,’ — he reminds us all that we should be very humble with awards. That’s putting it nicely. He’s a little more critical,” he said.

Morrow said he never knew Elven Gray, but receiving the award means quite a bit to him because of all the great things he has heard.

“I didn’t know Mr. Gray, but I understand he was a wonderful spirit around campus and was helpful and generous, and those are the things to be, so it actually means quite a lot to me to know that I’m a part of that spirit and legacy of being a positive force on campus.”

Morrow has been at OCCC for 10 years and in education overall for 20 years. Over the years, he said, his favorite memories have been helping students in his classes succeed and watching them develop in every aspect of their lives.

“I think the most important is the connection to students who are working and growing and finding their way in life. To just be part of that process just is kind of a blessing.

“I remember a few stories of students … in my class … overcoming incredible obstacles. [They] had so many responsibilities but they were still succeeding, so thinking about those students is very inspiring.”

Morrow wears many hats on campus, including teaching English, philosophy and the Advocates of Peace class, and sponsoring the Advocates of Peace club. He has sponsored the club for about eight years, he said, and has good memories from all of their activities.

“Free Hugs … was definitely a highlight,” he said. “It’s so interesting to … see people who accept the hugs. You just smile. It’s a really interesting social phenomenon.”

Recently, Morrow became the faculty liaison for Services and Engagement, a new area in Student Life.

He said in his reaasigned position, he will help assist with a student mentoring program designed to help students succeed by being matched with other students. He also will help make faculty aware of student services and encourage students to use them.

Morrow said he hopes everyone at OCCC will remember they are all a part of a bigger picture.

“I’m very appreciative for the Elven Gray Recognition,” he said. “When I accepted it, one thing I said was, ‘My mentor who is Parker Palmer talks about how we’re all in this together. If we carry just a little bit of that insight, it just helps us be more open and more respectful to each other and more supportive.’”

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