By Su Byron
Julie Morris has been involved with New College for more than five decades. Her love of the environment blossomed there, both in her studies as a biology/ecology major, and her experience of the College’s setting.
“I’m passionate about New College,” Morris said. “My passion embraces the campus itself, and the social and natural landscapes the College is embedded in.”
The New College experience took her far beyond the campus.
“During my first semester, I took a field biology course that offered field trips just about every other weekend,” she said. “We’d immerse ourselves in different ecologies in Southwest Florida. It was empowering to be in these wild places.”
It also opened her eyes to habitat devastation and other environmental concerns. Morris recalled the time she saw an entire mangrove forest buried in dredged sand to make way for residential development on Marco Island.
“That experience helped set me on a path to environmental action,” Morris said.
While she was still a student at New College, Morris met Jono Miller, a fellow student and kindred spirit who shares her deep love of Southwest Florida. They have been partners ever since. Their son, Corley, lives in Utah. Morris graduated in 1974 with a degree in biology and ecology.
In the years that followed, Morris’ connection to the College only deepened. She served as an environmental consultant and adjunct instructor, and co-coordinated New College’s Environmental Studies Program from 1981 to 2002 with Miller. They also co-directed the program after the College became independent.
Morris’ struggles for Florida’s ecosystems also continued. This included both fieldwork and political efforts. Her role on several government boards had a positive impact on regional environmental policies.
She served as a commissioner and chair of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; a member, vice chair and chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council; a reviewer of Fisheries Innovation Fund Proposals for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and a member of the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative Board of Directors.
Morris began working in New College’s Provost’s Office in 2003. She became the assistant vice president for academic affairs in 2006 and retired as the associate vice president for academic affairs in 2020.
Retired or not, Morris’ commitment to New College remains. She recently made a bequest that will enable New College’s Environmental Studies Program to thrive for many years to come.
As Morris sees it, this act of giving was only natural.
“Environmental studies was my profession and I believe in it,” Morris said. “I also believe in New College’s commitment to empowering new generations of students with this knowledge. It was an obvious choice to help both New College and this program.”
Morris adds that her bequest to New College is a percentage of her estate, and not a specific figure.
“You don’t have to be a wealthy person to give back,” she said. “I really love that idea. It’s a powerful model of giving, and I hope more faculty members and staff become aware of it. Being a part of the New College community is a transformative experience. Being able to give back to that community is equally transformative.”
After all these years, Morris remains passionately committed to New College’s students, and to the spirit of the College itself.
“There’s something about the New College spirit,” she said. “It’s still alive and well, even though the times have changed since I was a student here.”
Morris notes that New College’s current crop of scholars has gone through a trial by fire.
“These students were children during the Great Recession. Now they’ve survived the year and more of a worldwide pandemic—and they’ve come out the other side,” she said. “Giving these young people the opportunity to be at a place like New College is a powerful thing. These students aren’t lost in a crowd of thousands of others. They’re mentored by faculty members who know them well. Great or small, every act of giving is like a seed we’ve planted for these students. Those seeds will keep growing far into the future—and I’m proud to be even a small part of that.”
Su Byron is the communications specialist for the New College Foundation.