Morris inducted into RWHS Wall of HonorWhen Craig Morris and his family first moved to Red Wing in 1968, the then-eighth-grader was certain that he would be miserable here.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
When Craig Morris and his family first moved to Red Wing in 1968, the then-eighth-grader was certain that he would be miserable here.
“I told my dad, there’s no way,” Morris said. “I thought that this was not going to be a place that I could see myself fitting into.”
On the surface, Red Wing was considerably smaller than the Morris’ native St. Paul. But more concerning was the fact that Red Wing was predominantly white at the time.
“There certainly weren’t people that looked like me,” Morris said. “That was kind of intimidating at a time in my life where I didn’t want to be a spectacle.”
The thought of standing out worried Morris so much that he tried to convince his parents to let him stay with his grandmother back in the Cities. It took convincing, but his family eventually persuaded Morris to at least try living in Red Wing for a year. Now, Morris said he’s glad he took the chance.
“It turned out to be a vastly different experience than I thought,” he said. “I was able to … find myself in my community. I went from being an introvert to an extrovert.”
More than four decades later, Morris looks at his time in Red Wing as the jumping off point for many great things in his life. He said not only was he not ostracized while here, he was also challenged, accepted and encouraged by his teachers and coaches.
“I was a poor student when I was younger,” Morris said. “I don’t know how I made it through the fifth grade.”
Once enrolled in Red Wing, Morris got involved in football, choir and student government.
Morris said his German teacher Simon Lange and student council advisor Peter Petrich are just two of the people that really helped inspire him. When Morris first arrived in Red Wing, Lange took him aside and told him about his life — how he had been wounded in WWII and lost an eye.
“After I listened to Simon, I almost went home and cried,” he said. “Who am I to feel sorry for myself and what do I have to worry about?”
Morris said Petrich had clear ideas and opinions about government and exposed Morris to new ways of thinking.
“People were trying to give me the best advice and council that they could. Had they not been there, I wouldn’t be here,” Morris said. “Those things just stayed with me. I think they motivated me.”
After graduating from Red Wing High School in 1973, Morris joined the Air Force Academy and then enrolled at St. Thomas, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in public administration and economics.
After 30 years working in the corporate world — in the aviation and telecom sectors — Morris decided to get involved in education, adding that he was “frustrated” with corporations.
He is currently working for the University of Wisconsin System as the director for their PK-16 teacher quality improvement and retention program.
“I couldn’t have done the things I was able to do had I not had the opportunities Red Wing afforded me,” he said.
On Friday, Morris was inducted into Red Wing High School’s Wall of Honor.
“I’m humbled, I’m honored, I’m scared,” he said of the recognition.
Now, Morris said it’s time for him to give back and help inspire underachieving students the same way he was inspired when he was younger. He currently volunteers time in Red Wing schools to mentor students. Morris said it’s a “moral obligation” to help students succeed and find out what each student needs.
“You’re going to see more of me in the halls,” he said. “We’re going to work with underachieving kids and those that need extra enrichment.”
“If I can (be successful), I think that anybody and any student can and should be able to do that,” Morris said. “I hope it motivates them the right way. I hope I can serve as a role model, as a resource, a mentor.”