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WHOI Establishes Endowed Senior Scientist Chair Named for Local Resident

August 18, 1999

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has established an endowed chair in honor of local resident and former WHOI scientist Robert W. Morse of North Falmouth.  The new chair was established through funds from the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation in Tucson, Arizona.

The permanently endowed chairs at WHOI are awarded for extraordinary accomplishments in marine scientific research and education.  Funds for the chair enable the recipient to work on projects for which traditional grant support is unlikely and can provide some time to explore new ideas or research directions that changing technology has made available.

“Bob Morse, along with previous Director Paul Fye, was influential in guiding our graduate education program during a period of significant growth,” noted WHOI Director Robert B. Gagosian in announcing the award.  “Bob served as the third Dean of the joint program with MIT, sharing his wisdom and experience in higher education at several major universities at a critical time in both the history of the program and in higher education in general,” Gagosian added. “Bob also served WHOI in other capacities in the 1970s and 1980s, and he made many contributions to the overall strength of our scientific research programs. WHOI is pleased that the Cottrell Foundation has chosen to honor Bob with an endowed chair at the Institution. It is a fitting and lasting tribute to him.”

Morse was educated at Bowdoin College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1943, and at Brown University, where he received a master’s degree in 1947 and a doctorate in physics in 1949. He served as a naval officer from 1943 to 1946, and held varying faculty positions leading to Professor of Physics, Physics Department Chair, and Dean of the College at Brown University between 1949 and 1966. He was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development in 1964 and served in that post until 1966, when he was named President of Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. The following year he became President of Case Western Reserve University when Case merged with Western Reserve University, and served in that capacity until 1971, when he joined the staff at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

A physicist with research interests in underwater acoustics, low temperature and solid state physics, and science policy, Bob Morse joined the WHOI staff in 1971 as Director of Research, a position he held for two years. He was appointed a Senior Scientist in 1974, served as Associate Director and Dean of Graduate Studies from 1973 to 1979, and as Director of Marine Policy and Ocean Management for several years. He retired from WHOI in June 1983, and was named Scientist Emeritus in the Ocean Engineering Department in July 1983.

Morse served for many years as a Director of Research Corporation, which awards research grants, and was later elected a founding Director of the new Research Corporation Technologies, an independent technology management company. The company supports commercial development of innovations from universities and research institutions worldwide through seed investments and management, partnerships, licensing and other services.

“Research Corporation Technologies wanted to make an award through the Cottrell Foundation to a research institution or university in my honor, and I chose WHOI,” Morse said. “It is a very special institution with a unique obligation to promote ocean sciences research for this country. It is a can-do organization with solid accomplishments, where the staff works extremely hard to get a lot done with the resources at hand, and the Institution uses its funding resources wisely. I’m obviously flattered at this honor, but very pleased WHOI scientists will benefit from it for years to come.”

Nominations for the new chair are being accepted from WHOI staff, and the Robert W. Morse Chair will be awarded for the first time later this year.