Michael S. Morris, director of Denison University’s acclaimed Vail Series, will retire from the university in December 2021. Morris joined Denison in 2012 and was named director of the Vail Series in 2014, only the second to lead the program since its inception in 1979.

Renowned among artists and audiences, the Vail Series brings top talent to campus for Denison students, employees, and the wider community to enjoy. Under Morris’ direction, the Vail Series expanded its reach, bringing fresh new talents such as Roomful of Teeth, Aoife O’Donovan, and American Spiritual Ensemble to the Swasey Chapel stage, thereby joining widely known artists such as Reneé Fleming, YoYo Ma, and Wynton Marsalis.

“I have to thank Mike and the Vail series for giving me an amazing experience in putting on performance events. Mike made it so easy to get excited about the musicians we brought in and his passion for the arts and the Vail series definitely helped my own passion for facilitating the arts grow into what it is today,” says Global Commerce major Heather Wiggins ‘19, an art administration master’s candidate at Boston University.

During his tenure at Denison Morris oversaw the creation of a stellar artist-in-residence program. Students learned from, performed with, and built lasting relationships with top musical talents such as ETHEL and Third Coast Percussion. Under the terms of the residency, these artists come to campus several times each semester and sustain their engagement with students and the community over several years.

Morris also provided acumen and direction during the planning of the Michael D. Eisner Center for Performing Arts. His extensive background in the field and his inclusive communications with Denison’s performing arts faculty and students brought insight to the design of the state-of-the-art center, which houses the departments of dance, music, and theatre. He has been an indefatigable promoter of the arts at Denison, and assisted in obtaining several grants from the Mellon Foundation to support its arts programs.

“From Mike I learned how to be a leader; by setting an example of treating everyone with kindness and respect, and by always assuming the best of everyone,” says Psychology major Morgan Phoenix ’17, a student at George Washington Law School. “He taught me to keep an open mind to change, and gave me confidence in sharing my own ideas.”

January 11, 2022