Dr. Leotus “Lee” Morrison: A Legacy at Madison College
Dr. Lonnie Leotus “Lee” Morrison was a coach and professor during her tenure at Madison College/ James Madison University. Her focus was on women’s sports, mostly to improve the quality of competition and equality of sports by gender. She has been instrumental in the formation and organization of women’s athletics nationwide as well as at James Madison University.
Dr. Morrison came to Madison College in 1955 after receiving her master’s degree in teaching from Georgia Peabody College for Teachers in South Caroline. She earned her doctorate degree in physical education from Indiana University during her first few years at Madison College (Olson, 1). She taught nearly every class in the physical education department and was the head women’s basketball coach for a few years and was the women’s field hockey coach for 17 years.
Morrison was influential on the national level as well. In 1971 she became a founding member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and became its president in 1974. The AIAW was an organization devoted to expanding, organizing, and improving women’s athletics nationwide. It was a movement by supports of women’s equality in sports before the passage of Title IX. She was also the AIAW representative to the United States Olympic Committee executive board, in an effort to improve the United States female athletes against international competitors (Olson, 1). Aside from the AIAW, Morrison was also the president of the South Atlantic Field Hockey-Lacrosse Conference (An affiliate conference of the NCAA), as well as the president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (Olson, 1). She was a member of many other sports related boards, an impressive resume that has garnered her national recognition for her work with women’s sports. For her efforts, she has won many awards, including her induction to the JMU Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Her certificate to the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is shown above.
Although nationally recognized, Dr. Morrison helped at Madison College as well. According to Tricia Olson,
“Morrison has been involved in faculty governance and helped write the constitution for the JMU Faculty Senate. She served as the chair for the senate reconciliation committee and the student-faculty relations committee. Morrison favored and supported JMU going co-ed, but still believes in women’s colleges because they provide another option for students. She helped build the men’s athletic program and served on the committee that interviewed Dr. Ronald E. Carrier” (Olson, 2).
Even with all of her accomplishments and busy life governing sports and promoting women’s athletics, she still had time to be a very popular professor among students at Madison College/ James Madison University. Former JMU women’s basketball star Katherine Johnson credits Dr. Morrison with her switch from an English major to a Physical Education and Health major. Johnson said that Dr. Morrison was a tough but fair teach and someone who cared about her students (Johnson, 2013). In the popular “Professors You Love” column written by JMU alumni, Donna Farmer Butler said of Morrison, “She gave me hope. She broke the mold. She thought “outside of the box” and accepted those of us who were unable to match the ideal. She encouraged free thinking, welcomed ideas other than her own and set high standards for reasoning.” (Butler, 1) Morrison still remains in contact with students including Johnson. She is still admired at the university for her hard work and determination. All of the nation’s female athletes have Dr. Morrison to thank for her hard work and determination in order for them to play the games that they love.
Bluestone. Harrisonburg: Madison College, 1974.
Butler,Donna Farmer. “She Got Game.” Professors You Love, 2002: 1, http://www.jmu.edu/professorsyoulove/morrison-butler.shtml
Certificate from the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. 2000: 1, Lee Morrison Papers, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Johnson, Katherine. Interview by author. Harrisonburg, VA. April 23, 2013.
Olson, Tricia. “Morrison’s efforts helped shape women’s athletics.” Montpelier Spring 1988: 1-2, Lee Morrison Papers, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.