April 7, 2016
Dear Goucher Community Members:
It is with great sadness that I share the passing of Joe Morton, founder of Goucher’s Peace Studies Program and professor emeritus of philosophy and peace studies. Joe passed away early this morning. Details about a memorial service will be shared as they become available; currently, it looks as if it may be scheduled for June or July.
Dr. Morton learned the necessity of reconciliation at an early age. Born in Hungary, he came to the United States as a child with his parents and sister to escape the Holocaust. Dr. Morton received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and his doctorate in philosophy from the Johns Hopkins University. He came to Goucher in 1963, chaired the Philosophy Department from 1978 to 1988, and founded the Peace Studies Program in 1991, one of the few programs in the country of its kind at that time. He served Goucher faithfully until his retirement in 2000 and remained an active member of the community until his passing.
Dr. Morton was a lifelong teacher because he was also a lifelong learner. With great intellectual courage, he was always ready to reexamine, review, and critique his opinions to bring himself to a better understanding. Dr. Morton would often start from scratch on a given subject and arrive at an utterly transformed view. In many such instances, Dr. Morton’s reappraisal of his beliefs began in his conversations with his students. His interest in peace studies and conflict resolution, in fact, grew out of joining students in demonstrations and political actions of protest against the United States’ military actions in the 1980s and 1990s. These student conversations also led to an awareness of conditions for the homeless, and he took food and clothing to Jonah House for decades.
Dr. Morton had a particular talent for drawing people together and for sustaining relationships. He would say he learned with many American Indian communities, taking summers to drive around the country visiting friends and colleagues from coast to coast. Dr. Morton was the rare philosopher for whom the theoretical philosophical ideas translated clearly into moral purpose and active plans for social transformation. He was an activist against war, the death penalty, militarism, and nuclear proliferation.
He was a kind, gentle, and unobtrusive man, who remained steadfastly and wonderfully present in our lives. He was thoughtful, fiercely independent, and deeply committed to nonviolence as the guiding principle of his life. During the last two decades of his life, he took special inspiration from this passage in the Bhagavad-Gita:
“They live in wisdom who see themselves in all, and all in them…whose love for all creation has consumed every selfish desire and self-craving tormenting heart. Not agitated by grief nor hankering after pleasure, they live free of lust, and fear, and anger. Fettered no more by selfish attachments, they are not elated by good fortune not depressed by bad. Such are the seers.”
These are the words Dr. Morton lived by, and the ones that we will remember him by.
He is survived by his daughter, Rebecca Morton of Columbus, OH, his son-in-law, David Brewer, and grandchildren Lotte and Lucian Brewer; his son, Jason Morton of Hagerstown, MD, his daughter-in-law Kelly Ann, and granddaughters Meredith and Sadie; and his sister, Veronika Kardosh of Israel, and his nephew, Michael Kardosh. He is predeceased by his son, Paul Morton.
The family requests gifts made in memory of Dr. Morton be directed to the Human Rights and Non-Violence Fund. Donations may be made by visiting Goucher’s giving page and selecting the fund from the drop-down menu or mailed to Goucher College, the Office of Advancement, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204.
Our deepest condolences to his family.
José Antonio Bowen