Two longtime members of the Department of English & Philosophy passed away recently, both leaving legacies that helped shape the department and the lives of many of their students.
Professor George Greenlee died on Sept. 24, while Dr. Henry “Bud” Morgan died on Oct. 2.
“The thing they had in common is just plain generosity,” said Dr. Dale Simpson, a professor of English and former department chair who retired in 2014. “They were both so giving of their time, wisdom and financial gifts.”
Greenlee retired in 2015 after teaching at Missouri Southern for 45 years.
Simpson said he first met Greenlee in grad school at North Texas State (now University of North Texas) in the 1970s. Several years later, Greenlee would contact his former classmate to invite him to apply for an open position in the English Department at MSSU.
“Because I sat next to George in grad school, I spent 34 years at Missouri Southern,” said Simpson.
Former colleagues remember him for a dry sense of humor and appreciation for irony.
“George was an early riser, and I was also an early riser, so we drank coffee together for many years,” said Dr. Cliff Toliver, professor of English.
“He had a very strong sense of humor, and it could be impenetrable to some students. It was a very wry, wicked sense of humor. He found Flannery O’Connor to be a kindred wit.”
Greenlee taught special topics courses and attended conferences focusing on O’Connor’s works.
He established the department’s English Field Day event, which brought hundreds of students to campus each year. He was also known for his giving within the department, along with establishing the Preble Fund – named in honor of longtime faculty member Harry Preble.
“George administrated the fund, which is used for scholarships, travel and other departmental needs,” said Toliver.
An avid antiquer, Greenlee also donated furniture, pictures and other décor to the department, including the hexagonal picnic tables that remain outside of Kuhn Hall.
“(When we moved from Hearnes to Kuhn), the classrooms had life in them thanks to George, who was very careful about what he picked out and where he put it,” said Dr. Bill Kumbier, professor emeritus who retired in 2020. “When he would go on trips to Paris or London, he would mail back items to have framed and hung in the hallways.”
Morgan taught in the English Department from 1971 until his retirement in 2001.
Recalling the years he worked with Morgan, Simpson described him as a “service-oriented” professor who loved teaching and his department.
“His students and advisees loved him,” said Simpson. “For years, he organized the annual English Department banquet,” said Simpson. “He was responsible for many of the celebrations we had over the years.”
Morgan was a strong advocate for civil right and helped establish the former Langston Hughes celebration, held annually at Missouri Southern. He also helped lead the effort to have the city of Joplin honor the late poet by naming a street (Langston Hughes/Broadway) in his honor.
“One of the most important things Bud did early on in the life of Southern was help form and serve as the faculty advisor for MSSU’s first African American student group,” said Kumbier. “Another thing is that he created courses that were of great interest to and very popular with our students … particularly his William Faulkner class.
“One of things I grew to appreciate was where he was coming from and what his values were. He was always eloquently on the side of the faculty. He founded an award for the most promising high-school English teacher, which he funded with the money he received from being named outstanding professor one year. He turned it around into a student award. I learned a lot from him and became more and more admiring of him over the years.”