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Morris named first ‘distinguished professor’ at Wingate

by Chuck Gordon

Stephen Morris may have retired as a professor of physical therapy, but his affiliation with the University will continue. The University recently honored Morris as its first "distinguished professor," a designation Morris will use as he continues his work nationally and internationally as champion of oncology rehabilitation.

Dr. Stephen Morris’s curriculum vitae spans 30 pages. It’s full of administrative and teaching positions held, grants awarded, and page after page of manuscripts published and presentations given.

Dr. Stephen Morris

Then there’s the “professional service” section – specifically his work with the Oncology Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Morris is in the middle of a four-year run as president of the section, and by the time his term ends in 2020 the section will have introduced oncology certification for physical therapists.

“We’ve been working on that for basically two years,” Morris says. “A lot of people have made a lot of time commitments to that.”

Morris now has more time to commit to his cancer-rehab efforts, having retired from teaching in May. He will continue to work as a member of the Wingate family, through, having recently been named the University’s first ever “distinguished professor.”

The title is designed to honor faculty members who have earned the rank of professor at Wingate and have attained and sustained a national reputation of scholarly excellence in their field.

“It shows that your body of work has had a significant impact on a national level,” says Dr. Helen Tate, the University’s provost.

As a retired distinguished professor, Morris can use the University library and McGee Center facilities, and he gets a faculty discount on tickets to campus events. More important, though, is the continued attachment to a University as Morris promotes oncology physical therapy at home and abroad.

“Having a university affiliation helps him when he goes to present at conferences, and it gets our name out there as well,” says Lisa Smith, interim director of the Department of Physical Therapy.

When Morris makes a presentation at the World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, in May 2019, he will do so as a distinguished professor at Wingate University.

That benefits both Morris and the University.

“I was very productive in my time at Wingate,” Morris says. “I had a national and international presence, and I’m continuing in that same vein. So it was a win-win for me and for Wingate to be able to claim this academic home.”

Morris, 68, elected to retire from teaching rather than sign a contract that would take him into his 70s. But he’s not slowing down much. In addition to his post with the APTA, Morris is on two American College of Sports Medicine committees – one that is rewriting exercise guidelines for cancer survivors, and another that is bringing a special exercise program, Exercise in Medicine (EIM), to oncology rehabilitation.

He is also currently contributing to four manuscripts, teaching a series of one-day continuing-education courses, reviewing other manuscripts and grant proposals, and preparing for various speaking engagements and presentations.

Wingate bestows the title of “professor emeritus” on selected retired faculty members who taught at the University for at least 20 years. Morris, who was a faculty member from 2013 to 2018, falls well short of that emeritus criterion. But his body of work was such that University officials wanted to honor his achievements and offer him continued affiliation with the University as he continues his professional scholarship and service.

They found the opportunity in the faculty handbook for graduate and professional programs, where the “distinguished professor” designation already existed, though no one had ever been awarded the title.

With faculty from all programs coming together in a new faculty governance structure this fall, Tate says this was a good time to raise this faculty designation to the university level. “Distinguished professor was created to recognize professors whose body of scholarly work brings national prestige to the University,” Tate says. “Any time we have faculty who attain and sustain a national and even international reputation, we want to recognize that achievement. We want our name on that, because those are our folks.

“It gives us the ability to stay connected to the good work our faculty do, and the reputation they bring to their fields has a halo effect on the whole University.”