Longtime Registrar Herb Morton Dies at 70, Remembered for Improving Andover Programs

Former Phillips Academy Registrar and Instructor in Mathematics, Herbert H. Morton III, passed away this past June in his sister’s home in Cascade, MT. Morton was 70 years old. Barbara Landis Chase, Head of School, said in a formal statement, “Mr. Morton was an excellent registrar. He was meticulous in his organization of the office and completely fair in how he dealt with people.” Chase continued, “[Morton] cared deeply about the Academy and had many close colleagues and friends on the faculty and staff.” Morton joined the Phillips Academy faculty in 1975, working as the school’s registrar, as well as a house counselor and an Instructor in Mathematics until he retired in 2009. When Morton first assumed the position of registrar in the 1970’s all of his duties were performed by hand. According to Betsey Korn, Registrar, Morton was instrumental in creating a more technologically savvy campus. “He was the first faculty member to go down to Radio Shack and buy a computer,” she said. Korn explained that his purchase of this computer sparked a love for computer programming. “[Morton] worked with the technology department and wrote over 250 programs—some of which we still use today,” she said. Morton developed programs to generate class lists, report cards and statistics—such as average class size within departments. Still more of the programs have the capability to generate specific statistics upon special request by a member of the Andover community. Korn explained that many of the programs that Morton created still require a command in his initials—HHM. She said, “It is hard to believe that some will ever forget [Morton] because we use the very programs he created with his initials.” She also explained that Morton was a leader in creating the link between Phillips Academy and its current computing company Datatel. “There was a quite a bit of [technological] customization on campus when it came to the Datatel switch, and Mr. Morton helped accomplish just that that,” Korn added. Despite Morton’s gruff reputation on campus a parent of his students once complimented Morton by describing him as a teddy bear—which, according to Kuhlmann, was meant as a compliment. Korn described Morton as a fabulous son to his mother, whom only outlived him by a year. “Although he had no children of his own, [Morton] was an extremely loyal family man,” she continued. Korn said, “He stood very strongly for fairness. Some saw him as inflexible but his inflexibility was to be fair. He felt that fairness was a part of good practice.” She continued, “He was a man of routine—exactly what you want in a registrar. He kept everything running.” Korn explained that Morton’s longevity as registrar is unprecedented among other administrative positions, such as academic department chairs, because faculty are constantly rotating those positions Kuhlmann wrote, “When I was Math Department chair I had to rely on Mr. Morton for much information.” “Whenever I went to him with a problem he always solved [it] for me that very day. Of course he had to keep his gruff demeanor and tell me he would get to it as soon as possible, but I found the information in my mailbox that afternoon,” he continued. Morton was known for maintaining the clock in the faculty room, a self appointed task he routinely performed. Morton was an avid classical music fan and had perennial series tickets to see nearby symphonies. In addition, also enjoyed listening to National Public Radio. Morton also had an infatuation with the sciences, and he took an invested interest in the local weather and was known for the array of plants that could be found in his office. Douglas Kuhlmann, Instructor in Mathematics and former Chair of the Mathematics Department, said in a statement, “[Morton] prided himself on helping others. We will miss him.” Korn explained that Morton had both an institutional mind and an astounding memory, for he was able to recall his time at Andover with great precision. The Dean of Studies office relied heavily on Morton to understand why things existed in their context on campus. When Korn took over the job of registrar, Morton coincidentally left a pair of his shoes sitting in the registrar’s office. “It was a literal reminder to me that I had big shoes to fill,” she said. Korn said, “When generations of faculty and students think of the registrar they think of one face—Mr. Morton’s” She continued, “I am a registrar, but he was the registrar.” Phillips Academy will hold a memorial service for Morton on Saturday, October 16th. Morton was born in Rumford, Maine and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1962. He joined the Andover community after working in education for 9 years.