HCU Founding Father: Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr.

Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr. was recognized as the Founding Father of Houston Christian University (HCU) for the instrumental role he played in establishing Houston Baptist College in 1960, now known as Houston Christian University (formerly Houston Baptist University). Dr. Morris, along with other founders, championed the goal of establishing the University as one of America’s premier Christian educational institutions.

During the College’s conception, Stewart Morris, Sr. was invited to join a Special College Committee in 1955 to help lay the foundation for the emerging private, faith-based educational institution. In 1957, Morris was appointed chair to the Development and Legal subcommittees that would be merged into a working unit to lay the groundwork for the College.

In Feb. 1958, Morris was appointed the chair of the College Property Committee to oversee the development and management of property acquired in the name of Houston Baptist College (HBC). The Committee, as described by Marilyn McAdams Sibley in her book, “To Benefit A University: The Union Baptist Association College Property Committee, 1958-1975,” was comprised of “practical people as well as outstanding Christians,” who “used their collective business and professional acumen to establish a sound financial base” for the College.

Morris played a pivotal role in the development and growth of the University throughout its history, including influencing Rice University to lend the $760,000 needed to purchase the 390-acre plot in Sharpstown for construction of the College. On the opening of HBC in September 1963, Morris laid the cornerstone of the first building, assisted by John F. Baugh, L.D. Morgan, Rex Baker and James W. Parker. He also was instrumental in the successful development of three residential subdivisions that provided substantial funds for the College in a crucial period. Under Morris’ leadership, HBC was able to clear its initial financial obligations and realize its goal of operating debt free.

Dr. Morris in his office at Stewart Title.

Morris stood firm, along with founding board members, in supporting the College’s Preamble.

In November 1975, the work of the Committee, led by Morris, was recognized at the President’s Council Dinner and applauded by President William Hinton for its pivotal role in launching the College. Morris served as chair for close to 18 years until the College Property Committee concluded its work and was dissolved in 1976.

Since the College’s conception, Dr. Morris has been a central force in leading and sustaining the University. He was appointed to the inaugural Board of Trustees in 1960 and served on the board from 1960-1969; 1970-1973 and 2000-2003. During his tenure on the Board, he served as Board Chair from 1966 – 1969 and in 2002. He also served as HCU Advisory Trustee and was a member of the President’s Leadership Council until his death at the age of 104.

Dr. Billy Graham speaks at HCU's campus.
Dr. Billy Graham speaks at HCU’s campus.

In October 1963, Morris was instrumental in persuading the Houston Independent School District’s superintendent to allow high school seniors to be dismissed to hear Dr. Billy Graham deliver the keynote speech during HBC’s Religious Emphasis Week.

Dr. Morris and his wife, the late Joella Morris, made numerous contributions to the University, including the donation of ten columns from the Galveston County Courthouse, which were dedicated on the HCU campus on Oct. 1, 1969, and served as inspiration for “The Ten Pillars 2030: HCU Vision and Core Convictions.”


Galveston County Courthouse

The Joella and Stewart Morris Cultural Arts Center, an integral facility on the HCU campus, was established through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Morris. The couple were instrumental in bringing to life the museums in the Center and also supported the Morris section of Husky Stadium. In 2018, Dr. Morris was the founding donor to the Morris Family Center for Law & Liberty, home to Independence Hall on the HCU campus. The same year, Morris House, home to the University President, was named in Dr. Morris’ honor.

Dr. Morris with his wife, Joella.



Dr. Morris endowed a number of scholarships for worthy HCU students and was the first donor to the now prestigious HCU Endowed Scholarship Program. Numerous campus programs and activities have been made possible through the dedication and generosity of Dr. Morris.

He received numerous awards for his generous support of the University through the years, including a Spirit of Excellence Award in 1991, along with his wife, Joella Morris, for their generous contributions to the University. He was the recipient of the award again at the annual Founders Day Convocation in 2003. In 2010, he and Mrs. Morris were recipients of the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, the couple received the Hallmark Award from the Alumni Association, which made them honorary alumni. Dr. Morris also received HCU’s inaugural Founders Medal at the 2016 HCU Spirit of Excellence Gala. In 2021, Dr. Morris and the Joella and Stewart Morris Foundation were recognized with the University’s most prestigious award, The Legacy Award, bestowed by HCU President Robert Sloan in appreciation of the great influence the Morris Family and their foundation have had in supporting the University.

Dr. Morris has been acknowledged for his lifelong commitment to Christian higher education at HCU and through his leadership has made an impact in the lives of more than 26,000 alumni who call the University their alma mater.

Dr. Morris with his statue on HCU’s campus.

Through the years, HCU has paid tribute to Dr. Morris’ invaluable impact on the University by granting him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1975 and dedicating a statue in his likeness in 2018.

HCU President Dr. Robert Sloan described Dr. Morris as “indomitable,” in a story in the Fall 2018 issue of The Pillars, entitled, “Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr.: HCU Legend.” “There is no other single person more influential in the founding and earliest history of HCU than Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr. He was involved from the very earliest days, bringing his expertise, hard work, faith, ingenuity, financial creativity and generosity of time and treasure that brought HCU into being. Humanly speaking, we would not be here without him,” said Dr. Sloan.

Dr. Morris is noted as the largest lifetime donor to the University in conjunction with the Joella and Stewart Morris Foundation.


“To Benefit A University: The Union Baptist Association College Property Committee,” 1958-1975, author, Marilyn McAdams Sibley, Chairman of the Department of History at Houston Baptist University

“An Act of Providence: A History of Houston Baptist University,” 1960 – 2010, author, Don Looser, Vice President Emeritus, Houston Baptist University