September 28, 2012

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Paul S. Morgan, former chairman of the WPI Board of Trustees, former chairman of Morgan Construction Company in Worcester, and a member of a family that has been closely tied to WPI since its founding, died Sept. 23, 2012, at the age of 88.

Morgan Construction, the company Paul Morgan led from 1965, when he became president, to his retirement as chairman in 2004, was founded by Charles Hill Morgan, who was hired by WPI founder Ichabod Washburn to supervise the construction of the Washburn Shops, one of the Institute’s first two buildings, and to serve as the shops' general superintendent.

Charles Hill Morgan was the first of five generations of Morgans to lead the company he founded in 1888 and to serve on WPI's board. Paul S. Morgan assumed both of those mantels after the sudden death of his father, Philip Morgan, in 1965. During his 22 years as president of Morgan Construction and 18 years as its chairman, the manufacturer of steel mills and steel mill equipment enjoyed one of the most successful periods in its history.

Paul Morgan was elected a WPI trustee in 1966 and served for 25 years, including five as chairman (1978 to 1983). It was a period that saw the Institute admit women undergraduates, develop and implement the groundbreaking undergraduate curriculum known as the WPI Plan, and undertake a significant expansion of its campus. As a trustee, he worked with four WPI presidents and chaired a major fundraising campaign, the Plan to Restore the Balance. WPI honored his service by presenting him with the WPI Award in 1984 and, in 1995, by awarding him an honorary doctorate, a distinction previously bestowed on his father and his grandfather, Paul B. Morgan.

"I've spent all my life involved with WPI," he told the WPI Wire at the time of his retirement from the board. "As a child it was traditional for the Morgan family to meet at grandfather's house on Sunday. Quite often, WPI presidents Earle or Cluverius would be there, too."

Morgan was born in Worcester and attended the Bancroft School in Worcester and the Governor's Academy in South Byfield, Mass. After graduating from Harvard College in 1944, he became an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving on a destroyer escort in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He then worked at the Laclede Steel Company in Alton, Ill., before joining Morgan Construction in 1947.

After gaining experience on the assembly floor, he became, successively, director of personnel, manager of the Wire Drawing Machinery Department, and executive vice president. Paul's son, Philip R. Morgan, succeeded him as president and CEO in 1986 and as chairman in 2004. Philip Morgan has been a member of the WPI board since 1994.

In 1988, a biographical booklet about Paul Morgan was prepared for a company family outing celebrating Morgan Construction's 100th anniversary. In it, his sons noted, "While there are differences between 'Paul the father' and 'Paul the boss,' the one main point from our unique perspective is that the care and love Paul gives his family does not surpass the care and love he gives the company."

The Morgan family has been one of WPI’s most generous benefactors. The Morgans made possible the Morgan-Worcester Distinguished Instructorship (for mechanical engineering faculty), scholarships, and a number of major capital projects, including the Morgan Hall residence and the renovation of the Washburn Shops. Most recently, the Morgan family made a $2.1 million gift to endow the Morgan Center for Teaching and Learning, which supports excellence in teaching.

In addition to his service to Morgan Construction and WPI, Paul Morgan was known for his long and deep commitment to the city of Worcester. He was elected to the Worcester City Council in 1957 and served two terms. In the 1980s, he chaired the Charter Commission, leading the drive to preserve Worcester's city council/city manager form of government. He served on the Worcester Republican City Committee and the Republican State Committee, and attended the Republican National Convention as a delegate in 1956 and 1968. While a resident of Shrewsbury, he served on the town's planning board.

He supported numerous civic and cultural endeavors, including the restoration of Mechanics Hall. He served as a director of the Hoche-Scofield Foundation in Worcester, a trustee and honorary trustee of the Higgins Armory Museum, a trustee and chairman of Friendly House, a trustee of the Pilgrim Society in Plymouth, Mass., and a trustee and honorary trustee of the American Farm School in Thessalonika, Greece.

He was a director of the Machinery and Allied Products Institute, Jobs for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Higher Education Loan Plan, More Machinists for Central Massachusetts, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Worcester Industrial Council, the Worcester Young Businessmen's Association, and the Worcester Chamber of Commerce. He also was director of the then Jamesbury Corporation, Wain Roy Company of Hubbardston, Mass., the former Mechanics Bank of Worcester, and Waterways Limited-Bermuda. He was a member of the Worcester Club, the Duxbury Yacht Club, the Moorings Club in Vero Beach, Fla., the Old Colony Club in Plymouth, Mass., and The Bohemians in Worcester.

In 1989 Paul Morgan and his wife, Anne, received Worcester's Isaiah Thomas Award in recognition of their outstanding community service. "I regard myself as a coordinator of people and ideas and as a catalyst to speed things up," Paul told the Worcester Telegram in 1970. "I don't say 'yes' to everything and I don't say 'yes' for the honor and glory of it."

Paul Morgan is survived by his wife of 65 years, Anne (Nancy) Murray Morgan, sons Philip and Daniel, daughters Margaret Grasselli and Anne Morgan, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Peter S. Morgan.

A memorial gathering and celebration for family, friends, and Morgan Construction veterans and colleagues will be held at the Higgins Armory Museum on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Memorial gifts may be made to Higgins Armory Museum, 100 Barber Ave., Worcester, MA 01606; Friendly House, 36 Wall Street, Worcester, MA 01604; or Plimoth Plantation, P.O Box 1620, Plymouth, MA 02362.

Learn more…

  • After the 2008 sale of Morgan Construction Company to Siemens VAI, the Morgan Family donated the company archives to WPI's Gordon Library. Read about the collection.
  • In 2009, brothers Paul and Peter Morgan discussed how the collection might benefit students.