Robert W. Morse Memorial Service
February 1, 2001
Amasa Stone Chapel
Case Western Reserve University


Remarks by Robert M. Tomasko, '71




Are you familiar with the poem "The Second Coming"?

I read it first in 1966, in a Case Tech freshman English class.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
.... The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

William Butler Yeats words were written just after the horrible slaughter of World War I.

But they could easily apply to mood of late 60s - the years of CWRU's birth.

Looking at our beautiful, tranquil campus today it is hard to imagine what things were like in 1970 - Bob Morse's last year leading the university.

Cleveland and other cities were literal urban battlegrounds.

The Vietnam war was being fought on campus as well as in Southeast Asia.

Protests and building takeovers created intense backlash among alumni and donors who knew the school only in more quiet times.

The legitimacy of higher education itself was questioned.

And federal and corporate funding went from flood to trickle - leading to deficits in many of America's finest universities.

I think of Yeats when think of Bob: a man in the center of this maelstrom.

I think of Euclid Ave. in early May 1970, a few hours after word reached us of the murders of four students at nearby Kent State.

A thousand or so students blocked Cleveland's busiest street, and were soon faced-off by dozens of mounted - and badgeless - Cleveland policemen in full riot gear awaiting an order from their police chief to club the students back to the sidewalk.

Bob Morse was huddled with the police chief in the center of the street that afternoon, usuing all his persusave powers to calm the police and avoid a second Kent State. Bob's negotiating skill - and a provident rainstorm - won the day. That evening he joined, at the head of the line, a candle light student march throughout campus carrying four mock coffins.

How different an outcome than what Harvard experienced when its president felt compelled to invite police onto campus to remove demonstrators who had occupied an administration building.

That act created wounds that have yet to heal among some of their alumni. I had a chance to accompany my wife to her 25th Harvard reunion. I was surprised to hear the university feeling compelled to ask the class of '72 to "get over it," and even more set aback when some alumni, over food and drinks, responded "No way."

I guess it's hard to give Bob - or anyone - the full credit they deserve for their role in averting a disaster that didn't happen.

Morse's title was president,
but really - for many of us - his job was that of teacher and role model

It doesn't take much reflecting for me to realize how much his lessons have shaped my career.

What was his curriculum?

Speak directly.
I'm trying to honor him by doing so today.

Engage. Know what you believe. Be willing to fight for it.
When conflict happened - he was in center stage - in the center of Euclid Ave when necessary.

Put your self interest second to these beliefs.
Do what you believe in.
Accept the consequences.
Move on.

He could have accepted other presidencies - but he stayed here, not wanting to leave the school in a time of crisis.

Bob's outlook was fundamentally positive.

He saw and showed others a middle ground at a time when the university was being tugged to be:

· a mini business corporation, or

· an instrument of political change.

Neither made sense.

He knew it.

And he offered a middle ground upon which the school still safely rests.

Bob practiced emotional maturity long before there was a word for it and a best seller telling us how to do it.

I'm a management consultant and business book author.

One of secrets I've found in many of world's best run companies was they were led by a strong team at the top.

Coke's best days were in reign of Goizueta and Don Keogh.

Disney has never surpassed the leadership provided by Eisner and Frank Wells.

Bob knew he couldn't do it all alone.

So he did what the world's best, hubris-free, executives do.

He hired someone as smart as him to help co-create this new university.

Someone whose social science background richly complemented Bob's natural science roots.

Of course - I'm taking about Herman Stein, one of the strongest, most powerful intellects I've ever had the chance to know.

Herman - your presence here this afternoon is a great honor to Bob, just as I've been honored by your caring friendship since my days as an undergraduate.

Stein and Morse made quite a team. Reminds me a bit of Harvard's dynamic duo -Rudenstein and Jeremy Knowles - and, of course, a little closer to home: Auston and Jim Wagner.

The Morse era has been under-celebrated at CWRU.

Sadly - I believe - out of deference to some forces that unintentionally, I hope, seemed to have served to hold the university back from achieving its full promise.

Bob dared to dream at the university's inaugural convocation in the Spring of 68 of what this new combination of institutions could become.

He took Heald commission vision and brought its optimistic rear view mirror assumptions into the world as it really was.

It's a dream we're still working on.

30 years ago I was deeply involved in the school as student leader and administrator. But for the decades since I've only been a detached alumni observer.

What have I seen from afar?

I've viewed the university as a struggling adolescent.

Full of promise, but not completely fulfilled.

This is a normal phase of personal, and institutional, development.

But it's something to be wrapped up in ones late teens or early 20s.

At CWRU, we're approaching the mid-30s.

Adolescence gets prolonged when inner conflicts linger for too long without resolution.

But when they are finally, firmly faced head on - this institution will be ready for growth .

It will set youthful, unlimited potential aside and takes its deserved place among America's leading universities.

This is a task still facing CWRU - but I'd like to take the existence of this memorial service for Bob Morse on campus as a leading indicator, as a sign of CWRU's new sense of maturity.

Coming of age usually always requires coming to terms with your past.

Giving Bob the recognition he deserves is important to all of us who knew, admired and loved him - but in the final analysis, it's a gift that will do more for the giver than the honoree.

Yeats feared - in The Second Coming - that "things fall apart, the center cannot hold."

He was wrong - the center can hold.

It has held here.

And it has held in no small measure do to the integrity and values of President Bob Morse




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