Why does it seem like those with the most life and joy in them are the ones who die way too soon? Such was the case with Francis Morrissey III, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the College in the mid-1980s. Good-looking and outgoing, he grew up in the Philadelphia area and attended Delaware Valley Community College before learning about the College of Charleston through his close friend Bill Penney ’89.
“He transferred in 1986, rushed SAE and, within a month, had ingrained himself with everyone thanks to his charismatic personality,” says Penney, an insurance agent in Collegeville, Pa.
Morrissey was socializing with a handful of friends when the unthinkable happened in October of the following year. They were leaving a second-story apartment above a shop on King Street when Morrissey accidentally fell through a big oval window, landing on the sidewalk 13 feet below. He went into a coma and died a few days later in the hospital.
“He made such an impact on everyone in such a short time,” says Penney, “and all of sudden he was taken from us.”
To honor his memory, Morrissey’s father set up the Francis J. Morrissey III Leadership School Endowment to send CofC SAE members to their national fraternity’s John O. Moseley Leadership School, which has educated more than 25,000 students since it began in 1935 (including Penney and three current members who actively sit on various CofC boards).
The endowment languished through the 1990s, but Penney and a grassroots group of Morrissey’s SAE brothers – spearheaded by SAE chapter adviser Athan Fokas ’89 – decided to resurrect it in 2003. Through half a dozen benefit events over the last 15 years, they’ve raised the endowment to almost $90,000 and have sent more than 85 active SAE members to the leadership school. The goal is to surpass $100,000 in 2019 and have the ability to underwrite six to eight scholarships annually to the five-day school, which SAE holds at a different location every year.
While trying to make better men and leaders, as well as help dispel negative publicity about Greek life, the endowment has also allowed Penney and others to reconnect with the school that means so much to them.
“The College shaped who I am, so it’s been a great way to get back engaged with my alma mater and even incorporate the CofC Foundation into my own estate giving plan,” says Penney, whose son started his freshman year at the College in August 2018. “This has been a great way to pay it forward, too, and honor Fran’s memory and ensure his legacy positively impacts hundreds of future leaders.”