Former students, colleagues and friends established the Nan Morrison Endowed Scholarship as an homage to the retired English professor’s passion for teaching English Renaissance and Southern literature. Known as the teacher you ‘took’ if you wanted to challenge yourself, her love for the written word proved to be infectious.
“Nan was a force to be reckoned with,” says Lynda Chafetz ’78. “She demanded a lot of her students; she expected you to read the assignments and offered you so much in return. The scholarship was created to honor and ensure the legacy of her spirit.”
Established in 2005, the scholarship supports an incoming or first-year student of exceptional academic talent who demonstrates financial need and plans to pursue a degree in English at the College of Charleston. To date, 10 students have benefitted from this scholarship, including Kristen Barbour ’16, who majored in English and secondary education and now teaches in the Aiken County school district.
The scholarship, says the youngest of three sisters, “helped me earn my degree and become my mother’s first daughter to graduate.”
Barbour plans to one day become certified in English as a Second Language (ESL) and share her love of literature and storytelling with students in other countries.
That’s the kind of passion that Morrison spent her career sharing, too.
Morrison grew up on a farm in Alabama where reading was an indulgence. The family joke was that young Nan checked out a book from the library on the first day of school. Some of her favorite books had feisty female characters like the ones she found in the Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins series. As she grew up, she moved on to Shakespeare and earned a doctorate in English from the University of South Carolina. Armed with her specialization in English Renaissance, Morrison became the second female professor to be hired at the College in 1967.
She arrived on campus during a tumultuous time. The College had refused to sign the Compliance Act and agree to integration, which put the school on precarious financial footing. A widespread faculty walkout left many classrooms in need of instructors, and Morrison found herself teaching a variety of English courses, including Southern literature. When the College finally opened its doors to integration and enrolled its first Black students, the English department’s faculty returned, but Morrison continued to teach courses in both English Renaissance and Southern literature, which she had come to love.
“Shakespeare and Faulkner are writers who focused on what matters most in our lives,” she says.
During her tenure, Morrison shared her love of reading with non-English majors during introductory classes such as Freshman Composition and Survey of British Literature. After 38 years of teaching, she retired in 2005. She still misses teaching because, as she says, “There is no better job in the whole world. You have people at the best time of their lives, and you’re immersed in a community rich with diverse ideas.”
After retiring, Morrison spent the next several years researching and writing A History of College of Charleston 1936–2008. Looking back on her time at the College, she says one of the things she loves is the institution’s resiliency.
“The College has faced many challenges in the past and somehow or other, always becomes stronger,” she says, adding that the liberal arts are more important now than ever. “The world is bombarded with so many science-based problems that we need students who can read analytically, listen attentively and think imaginatively.”
Morrison’s passion for the written word has helped shape many alumni as well as the history of the College. The scholarship in her name will help future students embrace their love for literature.
Featured image by Heather Moran