Playing it Forward: New Scholarship Created for Aspiring Pianists

John Howard Morris

by Jennifer Holland

Alumnus John Howard Morris, a former resident of Fayetteville who now resides in Corpus Christi, Texas, is helping aspiring piano students at the University of Arkansas thanks to a $160,000 gift and the creation of the John Howard Morris Piano Scholarship.

“Mr. Morris’s support of our music department is inspiring,” said Todd Shields, Fulbright College dean. “He is a loyal contributor to the university, particularly in the area of scholarship support, and has been for years. We are thankful for his contribution and passion for helping students pursue their dreams. His gift will be an excellent resource for recruiting and retaining promising pianists in Fulbright College.”

Morris developed an interest in playing the piano at an early age and took lessons beginning in the fourth grade. He was taught by Elizabeth McGill Bohart, a well-known teacher in Fayetteville.

After coming to the university as a student, Morris considered majoring in music but opted for history instead. Post-graduation, he spent time teaching in Tennessee, Kansas and Texas and eventually ended up at Wharton Junior College, southwest of Houston.

It was there that he renewed his passion for music and began taking lessons once again, this time from Edward Petsch. Morris, then in his 40s, found great satisfaction pursuing piano as a hobby.

Today, Morris is channeling his love for music—and the piano, in particular—into his philanthropy with the creation of the scholarship in his name. When the scholarship is funded, two students will benefit annually and receive financial assistance to help cover their college expenses.

“Piano music and playing the piano have always been close to my heart,” said Morris. “I wanted to support aspiring piano players with this gift.”

This gift builds on seven previous student awards from Morris. In 2001, he created two Chancellor’s Scholarships – one in business and one in history. Several years later, he pledged $250,000 to establish five Access Arkansas scholarships at the university.


Jennifer Holland

About the author

Jennifer Holland serves as director of development communications for the University of Arkansas. – Reprinted from The Benefactor