Delyte W. Morris directed the creation of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Thousands of other people assisted in the process, but Delyte Morris led the way.

September 1998 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the appointment of Delyte Morris as president of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Under Morris's energetic leadership, SIU expanded at an explosive rate. Eventually, the rapid expansion of the Carbondale campus and academic programs drew national media attention to Morris and SIU and led to a lively competition for scarce financial resources with the venerable University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

During the 1950s, the University of Illinois began an expansion of its presence in Chicago. Delyte Morris turned his eyes westward, to the numerous small towns and cities of Southwestern Illinois that were beginning to envision themselves as elements of the St. Louis metropolitan region--the Metro East communities. At that time, the residents of the Metro East area (the second largest population center in Illinois) lacked convenient access to a public university. Business, labor, and civic leaders realized that the absence of a university greatly restricted the prospects of the young people of Southwestern Illinois.

Beginning in 1949, just one year after his arrival in Carbondale, Morris convinced the board of trustees to offer advanced teacher education courses at a "residence center" in Belleville (St. Clair County). Morris saw himself as a builder of programs and facilities that he believed would offer people a chance to improve the quality of their lives. In order to expand the small Carbondale campus, he had been forced to acquire contiguous property in a piecemeal and cumbersome fashion. In contrast, as he evaluated the Metro East situation, Morris saw an opportunity to create an
entirely new university without such frustrating restrictions.

As he consolidated his position of president, Morris earned a level of respect and trust from the board of trustees bordering on domination. Morris generally set the course and the board usually supported his proposals. On October 23, 1956, the board of trustees met with the executive committee of an advocacy group called the Southwestern Illinois Council for Higher Education (SWICHE) and agreed to seek state funds to expand the SIU presence in Madison and St. Clair counties. On November 15, 1956, Morris asked the board to create one or more additional residence centers offering a wider variety of courses. Morris established these in East St. Louis (St. Clair County) and Alton (Madison County). The new residence centers began operation in the fall of 1957.

On April 29, 1958, SWICHE appointed a committee to raise private funds for the purchase of land suitable for a campus. The board agreed to accept these funds on October 31. The first parcel of land for a proposed new campus near Edwardsville was purchased on January 19, 1959. On April 1, the board approved an arrangement by which a consortium of local banks would loan funds to the university foundation for land acquisition against the public donations pledged for that purpose.

As soon as he began to acquire parcels of land near Edwardsville, Morris set up a new entity there. The administrative offices for the residence centers moved to an empty tract house on the nascent campus. Morris staged the first Metro East graduation ceremony on the Edwardsville campus on June 14, 1960. He invited Governor William Stratton to speak to the graduates of the residence centers. Stratton spoke in favor of a state bond issue to fund improvements in Illinois higher education scheduled for the November elections that included $25 million earmarked for construction of the Edwardsville physical plant. In anticipation of the bond issue, on the day after graduation, the St. Louis architectural planning firm of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum was selected to assist the university architect in designing the new buildings.

Morris was a visionary who did not encourage dissent. Dean Harold See supervised the residence centers as Morris's lieutenant and worked tirelessly to raise money and support for the bond issue. See became extremely popular with the public and the residence center students. Yet when See contended that Edwardsville should offer innovative new courses and not the same courses as Carbondale, Morris forced him to resign his administrative post.

Following passage of the bond issue, designs for the initial buildings were approved on May 26, 1962. Morris authorized invitations for bids on a library building and a combination general classroom and office building on February 20, 1963. Contracts were approved on April 26. Subsequently, additional contracts were awarded for a science laboratory building, a communications building, and a university center or student union.

Classes began in Edwardsville on Thursday, September 23, 1965. Individuals, labor groups, and corporations contributed more than $432,000 to help make the new campus a reality. But it was the determination of Delyte Morris that brought all the ingredients together and produced a new institution to serve the residents of Southwestern Illinois. The photographic exhibit is intended to honor Delyte Morris and all those who have contributed to the establishment and success of SIUE.

Click here to view the virtual exhibit.

Published by:  Stephen Kerber <>
Created By:  Faculty Technology Center <>
Last Update: March 22, 1999