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Longtime administrator Percy Morehouse retires

Morehouse headed EO Office for more than three decades.

By Nathan Solheim

October 2, 2017

Percy MorehouseIn 31 years at MSU Denver, Percy Morehouse saw plenty of change at the University. For instance, when he started in 1986, Larimer and Lawrence Streets ran through campus. But he’s been responsible for plenty of change himself — leading the effort to build the University’s Equal Opportunity Office and working to ensure an inclusive environment in hiring and employment.

An accomplished researcher and presenter on diversity issues in higher education, Morehouse spearheaded grant applications totaling more than $15.4 million -- including an $8.9 million Department of Education grant in 2016 to assist and train school districts in the Western United States with desegregation. More recently, he was honored by the Colorado Black Round Table for his contributions to education.

We caught up with him and asked him about his service to the University and what’s next.

What will you do in retirement?
I think for the first six months my wife and I will do some traveling — revisit some places in Colorado. We plan to go to Glenwood Springs, Telluride, Grand Junction, Mesa Verde and the Four Corners areas. After that, I’ll probably decide whether I have any skills in painting — water colors, so I’ll take some classes and keep my brain active. I used to be a musician, so I want to know if the creative skills translate. I’ll also volunteer in the African-American community.

You were a musician?
I used to play trumpet from high school all the way up through college. I discovered I didn’t have enough talent, though.

What do you want to do in the African-American community?
There’s an organization called the Colorado Black Round Table — they do a lot of interesting things in terms of the state of education in the African-American community. Since I have a background in K-12 education and since the work I’ve done with equity to create a level playing field for students of color, I figure I have some expertise to offer. I figure I can assist in writing grants that will improve education for African-American students in the Denver community.

What has it meant to you be a Roadrunner since 1986?
What attracted me to this institution are the students. MSU Denver offered them a second chance. That intrigued me. And I saw how hungry these students are for education and opportunity. Also, the diversity of this campus; to me, it’s like a United Nations here, and for the most part people get along.

How has the University changed?
MSU Denver was considered a glorified community college when I came here — there was no difference, actually — but now it’s recognized as a bona fide legitimate University, and our students contribute mightily to the economy here in Denver, and they’re employable. A lot of our students go to grad school now, and our faculty have done a wonderful job with our students.

Most people know you from the EO trainings. Would you explain the growth of those initiatives over the years?
When I interviewed for the position here, it was a two-day experience and I learned a lot and listened to the people that interviewed me and who shared their issues and concerns with me. That helped me formulate what I needed to do here. And when I first started here, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance from the Department of Labor was investigating the University because a class-action lawsuit had been filed by La Raza and the Urban League claiming discrimination. So, the very first day, I got a knock on my door and was told the University was out of compliance. President (Paul) Magelli told me the first thing I needed to do was get the University into compliance. All of the things we do as a University to get a diverse candidate pool came from that.

There were some racial harassment and sexual harassment issues, and there were accessibility issues. One of things I convinced the administration to do was a survey to assess how rampant it all was and to understand if employees and students knew what harassment was. It took some convincing to allow me do those assessments. People thought I was on a witch hunt and I'd turn around and use the information against them. But the purpose was to understand the rate of occurrence, whether students and employees understood what constituted the various types of unlawful harassment and whether they understood their rights, roles and responsibilities were in creating a safe place for people to work and to learn.

What will you miss about MSU Denver?
There’s never a dull moment here. I’m going to miss working with the faculty and staff. I’ll miss the diversity of this campus, the enthusiasm of the students. I’ll miss problem-solving and conflict resolution – I love that. I’m going to miss being on the cutting edge of technology and learning new things.

Anything else you want to say to the Roadrunner community?
Stay vigilant. Build upon what I and others have done here. Do not take two steps backward. To the students, I love these students because these students care. Keep asking questions ? never think there’s a dumb question, and stick to your guns with a bulldog’s tenacity to reach your educational goals.

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