Robert Emmet Morris '65
A classics major at Holy Cross, Bob was just out of dental school when, in 1969, as a young Navy lieutenant, he began a two-year tour in Vietnam, including a year on combat assignment with the Marines near DaNang. During his tour, he cared for both fellow soldiers and Vietnamese villagers—and thus began a three-decade long career in public health that has taken him around the world. He has established training programs for health care professionals in Trinidad and Guyana. He was responsible for planning the post-Gulf War reconstruction of Kuwait's oral health services. And 35 years after he left Vietnam, he founded the Mai Tam House of Hope Project in Ho Chi Minh City, which serves women, children, and orphans with HIV/AIDS.
And those achievements, the ground he has covered, the lives he has touched – and saved – represent only part of Bob’s extraordinary story.
As his daughter Anna – Holy Cross Class of 2000 – says “I see in my father a son of Holy Cross who has taken the college mission to heart and has lived it every day. Every day he asks himself ‘what am I doing for God?’”
When Bob returned to the United States from Vietnam, after stints in private practice in San Francisco, and teaching and developing a health services project at the University of Maryland, he joined the United Nations Development Program and the Pan American Health Organization as a consultant in training and education based in Trinidad. He advised more than 13 countries in the Caribbean and South America over the next decade, developing policy, educational and clinical programs in primary health care.
In 1985, he and his family were back in the United States and Bob attended the Harvard School of Public Health as a Kellogg Fellow, where he received a master’s in public health. He has also studied at the University of Michigan Graduate School of Business and Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Over a 13 year period, he worked with the Ministry of Public Health in Kuwait, collaborating with other health professionals to develop a school of dental hygiene, a national university-based dental school, and “Health for All,” a comprehensive oral health program for the children of Kuwait. In 2000, he was one of 11 dentists worldwide to be honored in Paris by the Federation Dentaire Internationale Centenary Congress for contributions to oral health research in the 20th century. Today, in his so-called retirement, he writes, lectures, and consults on a variety of public health projects.
For devoting his professional career to work that improves the lives others, for using his great gifts of leadership, skill, and unbounded energy to bring the finest possible health care to people around the world, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Robert Emmet Morris the Sanctae Crucis Award.