Derrik R.G.“Rik” Morris ’80 is a strong example of the Shipley spirit and the School’s commitment to providing the best academic support to all its students. Morris’ parents, both academic professionals and firm believers in their son’s ability to overcome his educational challenges, enrolled him as one of the School’s “first boys” in 1976. Their commitment to their son’s education was pivotal in their decision to choose Shipley.
As a student with unique academic needs, Morris was taken under the wing of then Headmistress Nancy E. Lauber. “Shipley encouraged me to push myself. It supported me,” says Morris. “Because of that,” he reflects, “Shipley was a constant in my life.”
The School’s commitment to Morris’ success at Shipley and his subsequent graduation from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia has been rewarded with an alumnus who has demonstrated his loyalty to his alma mater time and time again.
“I don’t believe in giving back,” says the 2020 Alumni Service Award recipient. “I believe in giving forward.”
Following his retirement as a Trustee a few years ago, Morris once again answered Shipley’s call to service as the inaugural co-chair of the newly formed Shipley LGBTQ+ Alumni Association. He shares those responsibilities with Kathleen “Kathy” Guy Dawson ’78. The LGBTQ+ Alumni Association supports and celebrates Shipley’s LGBTQ+ students, alumni, and colleagues. Demonstrating Shipley’s commitment to inclusion, participants include both members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community at Shipley.
“Shipley has been incredibly supportive of the process,” Morris says, “and it’s not because it’s altruistic, that we’re trying to check a box. It’s because it really matters.”
Morris did not openly identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community until nearly two decades after his high school graduation. Eventually his journey as a gay man led him to a relationship and marriage to James “Jim” H. Kelleher in 2006. Morris is grateful for the way Jim has been welcomed into the Shipley community. Along with being members of the Centennial Society, the couple created Shipley’s Nancy E. Lauber Character Development Fund as further acknowledgment of the profound contribution Shipley has made to Morris’ personal and professional life.
“Shipley is a family. It’s a loving place,” says Morris, a natural relationship builder. “Relationships should be the basis, the foundation of everything.”Read about Rik's LGBTQ+ Alumni Association Co-Chair, Kathy Guy Dawson '78