Born in Gillespie, Illinois, Loretta Morris earned her Ph.D. in sociology from The Catholic University of America, her M.A. in sociology from Loyola University, Chicago, and her B.A. in history from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Prior to her coming to Loyola University in 1970, Professor Morris had been the American Catholic Sociological Society’s general secretary, and general secretary of the National Catholic Council for Interracial Justice, where she played an important part in the Civil Rights movement. She organized the participation of priests and nuns in the landmark 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, and assisted in the racial integration of parochial schools in Southern states during that period of racial tension and violence, her life being credibly threatened on several occasions. She was also a personal assistant to Sargent Shriver in getting the Peace Corps off the drawing board and into the streets.
Previously a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at Glasgow University, Scotland, Professor Morris was a senior lecturer in the Sociology Department of Trinity and All Saints College (now Trinity University), Leeds, Yorkshire, when she was invited to join the Sociology Department of Loyola University in 1970 as associate professor.
She brought this wealth of experience to her teaching at Loyola Marymount, where her focus was always and primarily on her students, interacting with them both inside and outside the classroom. She is remembered for her classes in cultural anthropology, sociology of marriage and the family, and for her pioneering work in the sociology of childhood. Her widest audience encountered her, however, in her team-taught course (together with Professor Peter Haen, and her husband Richard) on the “Human Construction of Sexuality”; the class usually numbered more than a hundred, and was always closed out early.
Her emphasis on quality teaching inspired her to be a founder of the Center for Teaching Excellence, an on-campus resource for faculty wishing to enhance the teaching and learning process at LMU, and a center that continues to provide a wide range of services to all who teach at LMU.
Professor Morris epitomized the LMU ideal of the teacher-scholar, publishing the authoritative history of the American Catholic Sociological Society and its transformation into the Association for the Sociology of Religion. Her work in this instance was made all the more difficult by the complete destruction of the society’s records in a catastrophic fire some years earlier. Reconstructing and verifying her material took months of letter-writing and personal interviews. She was also a book-reviewer for the journal Social Analysis.
Her administrative experience at LMU was wide and multifarious. She was the first woman to be appointed chair of a Loyola University academic department; she served as chair of the Core Curriculum Committee (1984–1987); and she was for several years a member of the Rank and Tenure Committee.
Professor Morris had such respect for her students and colleagues that she truly believed the aphorism: “To teach is to learn twice.”