William C. Morse, 1915-2008

William C. Morse, one of the major influences during the 1950s-90s on the education and treatment of children and youths with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, died 25 January in Michigan, at 92 years of age. Professor Morse was born in Erie (PA, US) in 1915 and spent his academic career at the University of Michigan.

Professor Morse received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938, a Master of Arts degree in 1939, and a Ph.D. in 1947. During his tenure at Michigan, he served as chair of the Combined Program in Education and Psychology. After his retirement from Michigan, he taught at California State University at Northridge and more recently he continued to teach a course each spring semester at the University of South Florida. During his academic career Professor Morse also worked with important professional organizations including the American Educational Research Association, the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Commission on Mental Health of Children and Youth. Professor Morse received the Wallace W. Wallin Award from the Council for Exceptional Children in 1977, and he was honored by a scholarship created in his name at the University of Michigan where he also received the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Awards in 1969-70.

A chapter written by Professor Morse in a book about Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (edited by Jim Kauffman and Denny Lewis, 1974), included this biographical note:

During his years as an educator of behavior-disordered children, Dr. Morse has served in many capacities. For fifteen years (1945-1961), he was Director of the University of Michigan Fresh-Air Camp for Emotionally Disturbed Boys. He has also been a consultant to the Ann Arbor Public Schools, to the Hawthorne Center in Northville, Michigan, and to the United States Office of Education, Bureau of Education for the Handicapped….He is also a member of the editorial board of the Council for Exceptional Chidlren and of the publications board of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

Professor Morse’s academic career was marked by publication of many influential books and articles. Perhaps his most widely known work was Conflict in the Classroom, which Professor Morse edited with Nicholas Long and Ruth Newman; first published in 1965, it appeared in five editions, most recently in 1996 [see Sheldon's correction—JohnL]. However, his first book (Studies in the Psychology of Reading, 1951) and several other works focused on diverse matters in education. Among his passions, he also strongly championed consideration of the humanistic approaches to and affective aspects of education. As author and co-author of many articles, Professor Morse contributed to the scientific understanding of students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. For example, his paper “Personality patterns of pupils in special classes for the emotionally disturbed” (co-authored with Herbert Quay and Richard Cutler) was one of the first to take an empirical approach to classifying children’s behavior disorders.

Long, N. J., Morse, W. C., & Newman, R. G. (1965). Conflict in the classroom: The education of emotionally disturbed children. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Morse, W. C. (1951). Studies in the psychology of reading. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Morse, W. C. (1974). William C. Morse. In J. M. Kauffman & C. D. Lewis (Eds.), Teaching children with behavior disorders: Personal perspectives (pp. 198–216). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Quay, H., Morse, W., & Cutler, R. (1966). Personality patterns of pupils in special classes for the emotionally disturbed. Exceptional Children, 32, 297-301.

24 Responses to “William C. Morse, 1915-2008”


  • It was with great sadness that I read of the passing of Bill on Monday. He was a great mentor to me in my early days on the faculty at Michigan, and we remained friends and colleagues for the many years we served together on the committee for CPEP and the teaching of a joint seminar, along with Lorraine Nadelman, in which students pursued research in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    It is to Bill’s credit that CPEP is still a highly visible and successful doctoral program. We shall all remember his many contributions.

    With warmest regards to the family,

    John
    John Hagen

  • Dear Dr. Morse was the wisest, most insightful and kindest person imaginable. His contributions to psychology, education, and emotionally impaired children are indisputable. But for those of us who were lucky enough to have studied under Bill, also know was a great teacher he was. He taught us how to “deal with children.” He taught us how to understand them and help them. His illustrative stories were told with compassion, depth, and a little swearing. I took my first course from Bill over 35 years ago as a young undergraduate. He went on to be my mentor, doctoral chair, colleague, and dear friend. I will miss this great man, and feel so fortunate to have known him. Much love to his beautiful family,
    Ellen

  • Bill was a very dear friend and mentor to many.
    We will miss him but we will never forget the power and force of his devotion to children and his commitment to teach teachers how to
    respect and to teach them. We will always remember the grace with which he lived his life and the gestures of civility and care that were always a part of his relationships with others. We will never surrender our memories of the ways he inspired, coached, mentored, and taught all of us to be better people and colleagues as well as better professors.

    Here is the obituary to appear tomorrow in the Sunday Ann Arbor News.

    Morse, William C. – Chelsea, Michigan, formerly of Ann Arbor

    William C. Morse of Chelsea, Michigan, died Friday, January 25, 2008, at the age of 92, at his home in the Chelsea Retirement Community, surrounded by family and a close friend.

    Born October 23, 1915, in Erie, Pennsylvania, Dr. Morse earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He co-founded and chaired the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the university. For 15 years he directed the University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp, a dynamic training setting for special education teachers and social workers. The university honored Dr. Morse with the prestigious Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1970. After retirement as faculty emeritus, Dr. Morse served as visiting professor at the University of California/Northridge and the University of South Florida at Tampa.

    Professor, author and mentor to countless aspiring educators, Dr. Morse was beloved by colleagues and students alike for his compassion, wisdom and dynamic leadership in guiding individuals to become effective advocates for and teachers of disturbed children. Dr. Morse was renowned in the field of special education. In 1977 he received the E. Wallace Wallin Education of Handicapped Children Annual Award.

    Family, friends and colleagues will remember Dr. Morse’s humor, sensitivity, irreverence, passion for Democratic politics, and devotion to his longtime summer home in McGregor Bay, Ontario. He was a man who could tackle anything and did so throughout his life. Leaving his home on Penncraft Court in Ann Arbor was difficult for him and his wife Sunny, where they had built their house with their own hands with the help of friends in 1940, raised a family and served the community for more than 65 years.

    Dr. Morse is survived by his wife of 71 years, Bernice S. (Sunny) Morse of Chelsea, MI; his daughter Susan S. Morse of Chelsea; his son James D. Morse and daughter-in-law Katherine Gantz Morse of Everett, WA; and his grandson Jeremy G. Morse and Jeremy’s fiancé Kelly Flammia, of Chicago, IL.

    No services are planned at this time. Contributions may be sent in Dr. Morse’s name to the Michigan Association of Teachers of Emotionally Disturbed Children, PO Box 1187, Okemos, MI 48805; Huron Valley Child Guidance Clinic, 2940 Ellsworth Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48197; or Michigan Peaceworks, 120 1/2 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

  • Bill Morse was a pioneer and will be missed. His Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan was an interdisciplinary doctoral training program that was decades ahead of its time. Bill was a kind, compassionate mentor to many. I had the privilege of having Bill as an advisor when I first entered the Combined Program. Because of my fledgling interests in the areas of mental retardation and learning disabilities, Bill guided me to my permanent advisor, Bill Cruickshank, a lifelong friend and colleague of Morse’s. The two of them, along with John Hagen and Ed Martin in the Psychology Department, who had mentored me during my undergraduate days at U of M, were instrumental in launching me into my career in special education. I am forever grateful.

  • A correction-addition to the reference to Conflict in the classroom. Bill and colleagues completed a 6th edition. This is the reference:

    Long, N. J., Morse, W. C., Feceser, F. & Newman, R. G. (2007). Conflict in the classroom: Positive staff support for trouble students, 6th ed. Austin, TX: pro-ed.

    All six editions are in the libraray at the Behavioral Institute for Children and Adolescents

    A 1984 quote from Bill on Inclusion is post on the website downloads

  • I met Bill and his wife Sunny about 16 years ago through my husband Jim Paul and grew to love both of them dearly. Bill was kind, gentle, compassionate, understanding, and endearing. He also had a great sense of humor. Bill had a special gift of listening and caring. When you talked with him, he would listen attentively and make you feel as if you were the most important person in the room. Jim and I visited Bill, Sunny, and their daughter at their summer home in McGregor Bay — a little piece of Paradise –several years ago. It was an unforgettable, very special time, and we are so grateful to have been able to share it with them. All we have now are wonderful memories of Bill, but I know that my life has been enriched greatly by having known him. I am privileged to have had Bill as a dear friend. I will miss him so much.

  • Bill was a wonderful teacher. He was especially helpful to me when I was learning to be a teacher in 1950. I drew on his philosophy throughout my career.

  • As has been said many times, Bill was a wonderful person who contributerd magnificently to many aspects of the school and child care fields.

    Because of his many contributions, he will be honored at the Reclaiming Youth Roots and Wings Seminars at Wayne State University in Detroit in September. At that time his last book will be distributed to conference attendees. It contains his life-long recollections as reflected in an oral history project set of interviews which he recorded in 1991.

    The foreward and tribute will be written by one of his former students, Dr. Larry K. Brendtro of the Circle of Courage resilience program.

    Further information regarding this event is available at http://www.reclaiming.com.

  • I first met Bill as his student in 1951. (yes, that’s right!) He was an inspiring teacher even then and his passion for children and teachers was apparent.

    Our paths crossed many times over the years. His daughter Susan was a teenage volunteer at Thurston School where I was principal. His wife Sunny was a not-teenage volunteer at Burns Park School decades later. Much as I loved and admired these two women, it was Bill who would be a lifelong influence and help me develop my own view on the education of children.

    I will miss him; his passion, his integrity and his beautiful heart.
    My sympathy to his family and to all who knew and loved him.

  • I worked with Bill Morse when he was a consultant, and I was an early elementary teacher at Lakewood Day Treatment Center in Ann Arbor during the years 1986-1992. You know when you meet influential people in your life because their faces and their words stay with you. I will never forget Bill’s face. He was warm, and open and full of smiles. He heard our toughest cases, and always had hopeful, wise, and smart commentary to give us. It makes me sad to know the world has lost him because people like Bill change the world, and make it sweeter. On behalf of all the children I worked with then, and now, I honor his memory. Thank you, Bill, for being there when we needed you. Your work goes on in us. Ellen Stone, Community High School, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • I think it was just one course I took with Bill Morse in the early 50s, as I getting credentials for secondary teaching. I wish it had been more. But this one was a wonderful course, and very significant to me. His reflections on kids he had known (and doubtless helped) was so warm, wise, empathic. Among many other images, I’ll never forget the kid Morse conjured up who suffered the feeling that he had a hole in his head. He felt it, he knew it was there, and it drove him crazy. Why? — because his father had been killed by a shot in the head.

  • William Morse was my uncle, my dad’s brother. The two in many ways were much alike. I loved him and will miss him greatly.

  • Kathy Piechura-Couture

    I had the privilege of studying with Bill at the University of South Florida. He is the type of teacher that all teachers should aspire to be–warm, compassionate, and intensely driven. He was a master of the craft of teaching. I think of him often and hope that just a glimmer of what he left in my heart I can share with my students. He will be missed, but hopefully his life lessons will live on in all of us.

  • I was very saddened by the news of Dr. Morses’ passing and send my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. I was priviledged to know Dr. Morse, originally as a student, and most joyfully as a true mentor. We spent one whole summer talking and reviewing my work toward my dissertation. He helped me focus on my work and make sense of all that I was trying to convey! My journey was a challenging one, but he helped me put on paper what was in my head! He shared many of his own thoughts about mentoring with me and allowed me to share mine. He showed me how to bring my thoughts to paper and helped me validate my own mentoring feelings, believes and experiences. I valued our mentor/mentee friendship and I dedicated my accomplishments in my book to him and my 2 wonderful chairs. I only regret that he was not able to be a part of my defense. I will forever hold his friendship and mentoring in my heart. I know all that knew him will miss him dearly.

  • Thomas & Diane Fleming

    We remember Bill Morse with great fondness and respect, as an educator, as a lover of children, and as an exceptional human being. He was absolutely down to earth in his personl demeanor, with his devotion to his family, his sincere interest in the people he met, and his understated humor. In his professional life, he was totally committed to children with special needs and to his students, a compassionate icon in his field. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to know in person this truly great, truly humble man.

  • To have been one of Bill Morse’s students is a high honor, and to have known the man has been a blessing. Bill was a true humanist, and in the very best sense of that word.

    To me, Bill Morse was much more than a university professor and scholar. Although he was a wise and gifted teacher, he was also a friend, ally, mentor, confidante, task master, and role model. On at least one occasion he proved himself to be a surrogate superego! I must say I owe much of my adult “self” to Bill’s sage guidance and influence. He will always be present in me.

    The world has lost a truly great man. The many gifts Bill bestowed upon those who knew him will continue to be bestowed upon troubled children and youth, however. His work continues through others. His legacy is one of building a better, more compassionate world.

  • I took Dr. Morse’s class when I was an undergraduate student in special education at the University of Michigan. His breadth of knowledge was a given. I was greatly impressed by his warm, personable approach to teaching. After several years of teaching, I returned to the University of Michigan for a graduate degree. I almost applied to a different school for this degree after encountering the “cold bureaucracy” at my alma mater. Then I called Dr. morse and he agreed to be my advisor. After a few years in the graduate program, I went to see him because of a personal crisis. To this day, I think about how supportive he was, and how practical his advice was. I took that advice and I often think of him with appreciation and love.

  • Annie Marshak Dowling

    It was a great privilede to meet Dr. Morse at his family home in Ann Arbor in June 2005. I was writing my master’s thesis on the Fresh Air Camp and wanted to interview the former director of the camp. I was amazed to have located him and set up a time for an interview. Dr. Morse directed the camp from the mid 1940s (!!) until the 1960s. He sure had some stories to tell. Just the fact that this man was the bridge between what the camp had been in the 1920s and 1930s to what it would become in the 1960s and 1970s was quite amazaing. His wife served tea and they were such a happy couple. It saddens me to hear of his passing, but what a life he lived and a difference he made.

  • My mother studied in this doctoral program at University of Michigan in the mid-1960s, when I was diagnosed with autism. She has since passed away. I am interested in finding out how I can learn more about Dr. Morse and the program in special education and psychology at University of Michigan and the work it was doing with the fledgling interest in autism, as well as it involvement with OMERAD at University of Michigan Medical School. I am HFA savant. My mother put me in the public schools in Michigan.

  • Anyone looking to do research on Dr. Morse, the College of Education, Department of Psychology and any special education programs can always use the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan (located on North Campus). They have detailed finding aids to help you locate your subject and as an open archives, anyone is welcome to perform research there, although you must keep detailed notes of what files you are looking at, any copies you make and follow the other rules of the BHL. More information about this archives can be found http://bentley.umich.edu/. Best wishes for any research you undertake – it is a most rewarding experience and a privilege to do research at the Bentley.

  • BILL MORSE’S FINAL BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2009
    As the crowning creative contribution of his career, Bill Morse worked with editorial staff from the journal Reclaiming Children and Youth to publish, CONNECTING WITH KIDS IN CONFLICT: A LIFE SPACE LEGACY (2009). This small book shares Dr. Morse’s insights from over 60 years in the field. Published shortly after his death, it was released at the 2009 Wayne State University “Roots and Wings” conference dedicated to his memory. Bill’s wife, Sunny, and members of his family were in attendance at this memorial recognition. Here are brief observations about CONNECTING WITH KIDS IN CONFLICT from three of Bill’s former colleagues:
    “This book strikes a fine balance between theory and practical information. Best of all, these pages reflect so well Bill Morse’s legacy of warmth and caring.” Ralph D. Rabinovitch, MD, child psychiatrist and founder of Hawthorn Center, Livonia, Michigan.
    “A guide to effective practice with youngsters who stand furthest from life’s dream.” Thomas McIntyre, PhD, Professor of Special Education, Hunter College, City University of New York.
    “Bill’s career is a who’s who of leaders who crossed the world stage of education, psychology, and social work. His most striking legacy is how proudly so many identify themselves as Bill Morse’s students. Adrienne Brant James, MSW, President, Turtle Island Learning Center, Detroit, MI.
    This 80 page book is available for $14.95 from the nonprofit website reclaimingbooks.com. Its richly inspiring pages are also ideal for college classes or staff development. For bulk rates, contact Susan Buus at sbuus@reclaming.com or call 1-800-285-7910.

  • Correction, the date of the publication of Bill’s final book and the conference honoring him was October, 2008.

    Larry Brentro

  • This is a bit off topic, which I apologize for, but would you and your viewers mind voicing your opinion about the recent oil disaster, you’re opinion greatly helps and I can’t thank you enough for taking a few moments to give it. I left the URL in the appropriate field, thank you!

  • Hey, Lauretta, your comment is more than a “bit off topic” (as in “way”). You also mistyped the URL, but I removed it anyway.

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