United Way Taps Katie, Walker Morris for Top Award
The United Way of Moore County is breaking new ground this year with its Cornerstone Award, its highest award for volunteerism.
For the first time since the award was originally presented in 2004, the honor is going to two people.
Walker and Katie Morris are this year's recipients of the prestigious honor that is presented to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary commitment, creativity, leadership, inspiration, and sustained service and broad scope of impact on the quality of life in the community.
"For the 10th year, we asked, "Should we think outside the box?' And one of the things we decided to do was look at couples," said George Erickson, United Way board chairman. "We are happy to recognize Katie and Walker. Their commitment to helping others reaches beyond all they've done locally, and worldwide. We are proud that our community has had the benefit of being their home."
The award will be presented at the Cornerstone banquet Jan 24. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Little River Golf & Resort. The banquet is open to the public, and tickets to the event may be purchased by calling the United Way of Moore County at (910) 692-2413. A reception will start at 6 p.m.
Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress, will emcee the event.
The Morrises said they were "surprised," "honored" and "humbled" to receive the award.
Walker Morris said he and his wife are a good duo when it comes to working for the community.
"We have supported each other in different ways on different projects. We are a good team," he said.
Individually, Katie Morris has volunteered since she came to Moore County more than 27 years ago. She has utilized her talents and interests for a wide range of organizations, including the United Way, where she has served as a board member.
Katie shares a long-term commitment to the Sandhills Coalition for Human Care, where she began as a food volunteer and participated on several committees over the years.
She was one of the founders of the former Sandhills Interfaith Hospitality Network, now known as Family Promise, and has been involved in work with the Sunrise Theater and the Moore County Housing Partnership.
Katie Morris said her work has benefited her greatly.
"I have grown so much from being involved in these groups and being involved with so many good people," she said. "People in this community think big, and then they get out and make it happen."
A patron of the arts, Katie Morris has served as president of the Moore County Chapter of the North Carolina Symphony and played a leading role in creating the children's arts-in-the-schools program for the Arts Council of Moore County. Because of her dedication to the arts, she has been active on several boards, including the Arts Council of Moore County, the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Pottery Center, and the Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Katie and Walker have raised three children in Moore County.
Because of the couple's emphasis on education, Katie has served on boards of the Sandhills Community Foundation, The O'Neal School, Davidson College, and St. Andrew's Presbyterian College. She is also a past chair of the PTA and the Upper School building capital campaign at The O'Neal School. Walker is a past trustee of The O'Neal School.
Currently, Katie serves as chair of the Belk Foundation, where she invests in K-12 education in the state and throughout the South. She also chairs the Academic Affairs Committee at Union Presbyterian Seminary and the John M. Belk Scholars Advisory Board at Davidson College.
Much of Walker Morris' work in the community has been focused on FirstHealth of the Carolinas and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sandhills. He is a past board of directors chairman of FirstHealth and a past chairman of the Board of Trustees of Moore Regional Hospital.
He served as the first board of directors chairman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Sandhills and also has served as a trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Both he and Katie have served the United Way of Moore County. Walker is a past chairman of the board and past member of the United Way Board of Directors. Walker has also served as chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party.
Linda Pearson, executive director of the United Way, praised the work of the Morrises.
"They are a very philanthropic couple," she said. "They get out and help where they are needed."
The Morrises are members of Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church. Walker has served as an elder and as chairman of the Pastor Nominating Committee. Katie is an elder and past church school teacher.
Walker is president of Muirfield Broadcasting Inc., which has owned and operated radio stations in Moore County since 1983. Both WIOZ-FM (Star 102.5) and WIOZ 550 AM are recognized as two of the state's leading independently owned radio stations.
Walker has served as president of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and has been recognized with the organization's Distinguished Service Award.
In addition to his work in the Moore County community, Walker Morris is the current director of the Clinton Development Initiative of the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. In that role, he is responsible for the foundation's projects in the African countries of Malawi and Rwanda.
He has also served as private sector program manager for the Clinton Foundation Haiti Team and in the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti.
Katie and Walker Morris have been married for 35 years. They like to spend as much time as possible enjoying their three children, Kate, Charlie and Rebecca, and their new granddaughter, Katherine.
Past winners of the Cornerstone Award include Ernest "Ernie" Hanford; Dr. John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College; women's golf legend Peggy Kirk Bell; Felton Capel, a well-known business and civic leader; FirstHealth CEO Charles Frock; David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot; the Rev. Dr. Hal Hyde, a retired minister and civic leader; Dr. David Bruton, a longtime pediatrician and community activist; and Linda Hubbard, a former Moore County Schools employee, who founded BackPack Pals, and community volunteer.
Pearson said the Jan. 24 event will offer plenty of lighthearted fun for a good cause.
"The event is usually a roast and toast; and our hats are certainly off in recognition of the service to the community that Katie and Walker give, but I'm sure the speakers will inject their own brand of humor and fun to the evening," she said.
Katie Morris said she was a bit "unnerved" about the prospect of being honored.
"I don't like to be the center of attention," she said. "Maybe with all Walker is involved with, they (roasters) will be more focused on him."
Said Walker Morris: "It will be fun, and it is all in good nature for a good cause. We'll be happy to put up with whatever comes our way."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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