Obituaries

Dr. Marilyn A. Morris, 65, of Denton, Texas

DR. MARILYN A. MORRIS

DENTON, Texas — Dr. Marilyn Morris passed away in her Denton, Texas home surrounded by loved ones on Aug. 17, 2022. Her family and friends note with extreme sadness the loss of such a generous and beloved sister, daughter, aunt, friend, mentor, and colleague.

Marilyn was born April 5, 1957, in New Brunswick, N.J., to Stephanie (Wojciechowski) Morris and the Hon. Charles M. Morris Jr. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History in 1979 from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.; she earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of London, England, in 1988. While in London, she also worked as a research assistant for the Bentham Project at University College and was a Christie scholar in history at Royal Holloway College. From 1988-1991, she served as assistant editor of the Benjamin Franklin papers at Yale University. In 1991 she took a position at the University of North Texas, where she worked for the next 31 years, first as an assistant professor and then an associate professor of history.

A specialist in eighteenth-century British political and cultural history, Marilyn was the author of numerous book chapters and scholarly essays published in journals such as Gender & History; The Journal of British Studies; The Journal of Family History; The Journal of Women’s History; SEL: Studies in English Literature; and others. She was the author of two books: “The British Monarchy and the French Revolution” (Yale University Press, 1998) and “Sex, Money and Personal Character in Eighteenth-Century British Politics” (Yale University Press, 2015). She was completing a third book, tentatively titled “The Theatre of Matrimony in Georgian Britain,” when she passed. In addition to her own scholarship, Marilyn was a valued and sought-after mentor for others’ work, serving on a number of dissertation and M.A. thesis committees while at UNT.

As colleague Dr. Nancy Stockdale notes, Marilyn leaves a tremendous legacy at UNT “with her acclaimed scholarship, her vibrant and provocative classes, and her hard work seeing her vision for LGBTQ Studies at UNT come to fruition … Marilyn’s most lasting contributions to the world, alongside her scholarship and activism, were her humanity, her strength, her sharp wit, and her vibrant presence.”

Dr. Clark Pomerleau, another colleague, remembers Marilyn thusly: “In 2003, Marilyn coordinated with a group of faculty members across campus to establish the Study of Sexualities Program — an SOS from LGBTQ faculty at UNT given the campus, state, and national climate at the time. She was instrumental in working with outside donors Howard and Maggie Watt to secure financial support for the program. Marilyn directed the program for its first six years. This precursor to LGBTQ Studies provided an intellectual hub for those who recognized sexuality as a valid area of academic research and teaching.”

In 2019, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at UNT established the Marilyn Morris Award for Outstanding Academic Contributions to LGBTQ Studies. She was its first recipient.

Marilyn was never happier than when she was sitting at her desk composing books, articles and presentations about the British monarchy and the upper crust in the eighteenth century. She was particularly interested in how the scandals, adultery, and expressions of sexuality were intertwined with the politics of the time. She was a fabulous wordsmith who took delight in crafting the most eloquent and often pithy way of talking about her subjects, who she treated with much empathy and compassion despite their peccadilloes.

Marilyn’s passion for writing extended outside academia, as she was a prolific correspondent and also drafted several novels. She was always active; she loved the outdoors, and one could find her most weekends riding her bike far outside city limits or taking long walks around town. At a young age she developed a strong enjoyment of horseback riding, and her love of horses stayed with her throughout her life. Closer to home, she avidly tended her garden, planting flowers of all kinds, pruning her ever-growing crepe myrtles, and mowing her lawn. Jealously protecting her plants from the critters who might destroy them, Marilyn had at the ready water hoses and a slingshot to discourage their attacks. So devoted to staying active, Marilyn insisted upon mowing her own lawn up until a few weeks before passing.

In addition, she loved to make tasty dishes accompanied by a nice glass of wine (or two). She made a variety of mostly healthy foods, from her favorite biscuits and gravy (when feeling naughty) to a wide array of stir-fries, curries, salads, and any recipe that included kale (“A lot of good that did me,” she quipped when she got her diagnosis).

This leads us to Marilyn’s wit, for which she was greatly appreciated by her friends. She had a way of summing things up that was “spot on” (as she would say) and light-hearted. One could say the same of the quality of her friendship; Marilyn was a kind, compassionate human being, who listened to her friends without judgment. She could find light and humor even when dealing with her devastating illness.

Marilyn is missed deeply by her mother, Stephanie Morris of Brandon, Vt.; sister Stephanie Choma and her husband Joseph of Sudbury, Vt.; niece Amy Mason and her husband Brian of Weybridge, Vt., and their children Sophie, Aster, Elizabeth, and Flor; nephew Dr. Joseph D. Choma and his wife Dr. Jessica Saunders of Albany, N.Y., and their children Isabel and David; cousin Dr. Rosemarie A. Bonk of Edison, N.J.; and a wide network of treasured friends, colleagues, and students in New England, Texas, and beyond.

Marilyn’s close family gathered to honor her memory in Sudbury on Oct. 16, 2022, and a celebration of her life is anticipated for spring 2023 in Denton. Memorial contributions are welcome to The Dr. Marilyn Morris Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of North Texas.◊

 

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