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Accidental Historian

President Steve Morgan

President Steve Morgan has day planners full of Westminster’s history

by Arikka Von (MSC ’15)

Westminster president Stephen Morgan can tell you what he’s done every single day since he was 18 years old. You see, he has this habit of planning his day. And Steve likes to write things down—the old-school way—pen to paper. It’s tangible and personal. You’ll find him jotting notes and tucking programs from notable events into his day planner. It would be rare to catch Steve without his day planner in hand.

“I carry this around and people ask, ‘What is that?’ and I say, ‘It’s my planner.’ They think I’m a dinosaur, but my life is in here,” Steve quips.

Steve has chronicled his 37-year journey at Westminster from business manager to president in his day planners: leather-bound binders filled with calendars, notes, contacts, and memories. They are more than day planners; they are journals of Steve’s personal life and Westminster’s journey.

“If you go back in my journals to 1981, it’s filled with personal stuff, but mostly Westminster stuff: whom I met with or the result of the meeting,” Steve recalls. “I would say for 37 years I have a history, at least from my point of view, as I witnessed what has happened on campus: new buildings, new programs, and new presidents or major reorganizations. It’s all in my planners.”

What’s the point of a day planner filled with old meeting notes? When Westminster celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Giovale Library last year, President Morgan was called on to make some remarks.

“I wanted to see what it was like the day we opened that building. It was binder number one, tab four, and there was the program and everyone who participated. I was able to weave some of that history into my speech.”

It’s the little things. It’s in the heart.

Those who receive a handwritten note from Steve or hear him tell a student-success story (he has countless) know his heart is intertwined with Westminster’s.  He is president, champion, and accidental historian of the college.

Steve knows history books can tell a one-sided and sanitized version of events. If you want the good stuff, the real deal (he laughs), you’ll find it in his day planners. Yeah, sure, there’s plenty of tedious stuff, but after 37 years at Westminster, Steve Morgan has plenty of stories to tell— some real doozies.

Steve doesn’t like to dwell on the past, but when he looks back on the journey and reflects “what it was like,” he says he has had a profound learning experience.

“I was 27 years old when I came to Westminster, so I grew up here,” Steve says. “I’ve learned so many things. I’ve also witnessed Westminster grow from a school that almost failed to the college it is today. There’s a lot to learn from that journey.”

Steve Morgan was a certified public accountant in 1981, on loan to the college to help with an audit during dark financial times. Steve saw grit and a purpose at Westminster that he wanted to be a part of. The college not only pulled through; it thrived. Steve became a business manager at Westminster. He also served as treasurer, executive vice president, and vice president of institutional advancement. He advised six different Westminster presidents before becoming Westminster’s 18th president. He wrote it all down—feelings of immense responsibility.

“I would say I am a man of faith, and I have spent a lot of time praying for this college and the people here—it’s a really big impact for me,” he says. “I feel the weight of history, 142 years; that’s a lot to protect.”

Not many college presidents can say their institution has been their life. But for Steve, it really has been.

“Coming here, it stretched me beyond measure. It stretched me about my own belief system, my own biases. It stretched me having to ask donors for money, meeting with angry neighbors, and dealing with emergencies. It has stretched every ability I have.”

President Morgan will retire after the college’s commencement ceremony in May. He will probably still plan his days because, well, old habits. He also plans to keep journaling his experiences.

“It’s an inefficient burden, but I decided I can’t give it up because of what and who are in there. It’s everyone at Westminster. It’s all in there, and it’s part of me,” Steve says.



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.