Professor Morgan Remembered for Teaching History at Wesleyan for Almost 4 Decades

Olivia DrakeJanuary 25, 20223min
David Morgan
David Morgan

David Morgan, professor of history, emeritus, passed away on Jan. 20 at the age of 83.

Morgan received his BA from Haverford College and his DPhil from Oxford University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1966 and taught history for 37 years until his retirement in 2003. During those years he served numerous terms as the chair of history and chair of the College of Social Studies (CSS), and he served one term as dean of the social sciences.

“My first memories of David Morgan are of classical music and opera pouring out of his office, with the door open, much of the time,” recalled Professor of History Cecilia Miller. “In the midst of these daily concerts, David was able to read with a single-minded concentration that I have never seen rivaled. David was a mainstay of the CSS, and often CSS co-chair. Indeed, David made teaching and administration look so easy that it was only after I became CSS co-chair that I realized how superb he was at both. Although never effusive, it was absolutely clear how much David loved his wife, Betsy, and their children.”

“David was the moral compass of our department and a figure who embodied what is best in higher education,” remarked Ethan Kleinberg, chair of history. “Beyond this he was a wonderful and caring man.”

Ron Schatz, professor of history, remembers Morgan as “a wonderful colleague. Soft-spoken, considerate of others, always seeking consensus, he was the keel who kept our ship from tilting far off course.”

One of Morgan’s former students, Stephen Engel ’98, professor of politics at Bates College, wrote: “He was a tremendous instructor. I credit him with really teaching me how to think critically, process materials quickly, and write daringly. Without his encouraging critique that spurred me to take risks in my writing, his lessons on how to write nimbly and quickly, and his guidance on how to skim (rather than just throw in the towel when facing down 1,000 pages of history to be read over three days), I don’t think I would have been able to develop into the writer and teacher I’ve become.”

Morgan is survived by his wife, Betsy; his children, Susannah and Ian; his brothers, Scott and Alan; his grandchildren, Syl, Rhys, Frey, and Dzintra; and many nieces and nephews and cousins. The family is planning a memorial service to be held on campus in April. Memorial contributions in David Morgan’s name may be made to the Greater Middletown Chorale, P.O. Box 527, Middletown, CT 06457.