Each year, TBR member institutions submit nominees for the award, which is given to those who provide special assistance to a TBR institution and whose financial support and leadership provide significant impact to the school.
Morris accepted the award from Chancellor Charles Manning on May 7 at a TTU Foundation meeting held just prior to the grand opening ceremonies for Ray Morris Hall, home of the Millard Oakley STEM Center.
“Mr. Morris is a tremendous supporter of Tennessee Technological University and especially its new STEM Center,” Manning said in presenting the award. “Tennessee Tech University is a better place because of Ray Morris.”
Morris is a 1959 civil engineering graduate of TTU. As president of Venture Construction based in Atlanta, he leads a company that has completed more than 13,000 construction projects in 42 states since it was founded in 1969. His company specializes in the building of drug stores and restaurants, and the firm has between 90 to 125 projects under construction at all times.
In nominating Morris for the award, TTU President Bob Bell emphasized the nation’s need to encourage more students to pursue disciplines in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A mere 17 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the year 2000 in this country were from STEM disciplines.
“Ray has captured the spirit of the need to reverse this trend. His words and actions through his giving toward this important project prove this, and this support has energized the entire Upper Cumberland region to engage students in new and creative ways in the STEM disciplines,” Bell said in his letter of nomination.
State and university officials broke ground for the $8 million, 26,000-square-foot Ray Morris Hall in early May 2008. The center opens officially for business in June with a full month of professional development opportunities for teachers and an active schedule of workshops for middle and high school students.