URI graduate establishes scholarship endowment for single moms
Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862
KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 30, 2004 -- North Kingstown’s Eleanor Milner Morris will tell you that her idea for an endowed scholarship for single mothers attending the University of Rhode Island came out of the clear blue sky.
But if you have the chance to chat with her for a few minutes, you’ll learn that she once took in babies from the Sophia Little Home for Unwed Mothers.
“I don’t know, maybe that experience played a role,” said Morris, 88, who grew up and lived much of her life in the Norwood section of Warwick.
Because the endowment will be funded through her estate, Morris became one of the newest members of URI’s 1892 Society, which was established 25 years ago to recognize individuals who have made URI part of their estate plans. She and others were honored at a recent reception at the president’s house. “It was great to meet President Carothers and talk with him,” she said.
Wade Wilks, URI’s director of planned giving said Morris is “a delightful lady who has been a caregiver for a good part of her life. A very independent woman, she clearly recognizes how difficult it is for single mothers to continue or complete their education.”
Wilks said the endowment will benefit single mothers at the Feinstein College of Continuing Education.
“It just dawned on me out of a clear blue sky this is what I could do to help the University and people who need it most,” Morris said. “Sometimes these women have to drop out of school, and then they need help getting back to school. Sometimes the world can be a little hard on these women, and so I thought the moms and their children could use a little assistance.”
Morris, who worked with Sophia Little for five years when she was between jobs, is used to caring for people. She also can relate to people’s suffering because of her own experiences. She lost her first husband, Ralph Armstrong after 18 years of marriage to a heart attack and her second husband, George N. Morris, died after they had been married 36 years. She cared for her late sister for 20 years who became paralyzed after suffering a brain aneurysm, her late brother-in-law and her late mother, Waity Milner, who lived to 103.
“I guess I have always been busy,” said Morris who also traveled extensively to China, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, South America, Spain, Portugal, the Rhine River and Denmark.
A graduate of the home economics program at URI, she started her career as a cookery demonstrator at Narragansett Electric and later became a secretary in the buyer’s office at the utility. After leaving Narragansett Electric, she worked with the Sophia Little Home, then at General Electric for the next 30 years as a secretary.
Amazingly, throughout the years, she volunteered in other areas as well. For example, at the Norwood Baptist Church, she was president of the Mothers’ Club, served on various committees and held the vice president’s post.
She also was one of the founders of East Greenwich Leisure Learning, one of the few organizations of its kind still active in the state. The group meets for six weeks in both the spring and the fall to listen to a variety of speakers, including several from URI. Morris served as vice president and then became the president for seven years. “We built our membership from 35 to 132,” she said. “We are one of the most active groups of its kind.”
So what’s next for Morris? She’ll continue to be active in her church, and serve East Greenwich Leisure Learning as president emerita.
But what’s most on her mind is a little baby she treasured and nurtured many years ago from the Sophia Little Home. “Through the efforts of a friend, I am going to have a chance to see her again. That little baby is now 55 years old. Can you imagine?” she said with a sense of awe.