Mrs. Cecelia A. Morris, A Pioneer of the Liberian Board of Nursing and Midwifery, Dies

The Late Ms. Cecelia A. Morris

The death is announced of Mrs. Cecelia A. Morris, one of Liberia’s most outstanding Nursing professionals, which sad event occurred in Monrovia on October 28, 2020, following a brief illness. 

Mrs. Morris, a 1970 graduate of Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University), yet unemployed, became a frequent visitor to the office of a fellow Cuttingtonian, Mrs. Velma Okoro, who was employed at the Department of Labor, working under the direct supervision of one of the Department’s Assistant Secretaries, Mr. J. Lamarck Cox.  One day Mr. Cox, curious to know why this young woman would spend so much time with her friend, Mrs. Okoro, asked her who she was and what she wanted to do with her life.  She told him she was a graduate nurse from Cuttington and was seeking a job and had applied to LAMCO, but they had told her they were employing only European or British nurses.

“To cut a long story short,” Ms. Morris said in a narrative about her life, “it was through the instrumentality of Mr. J. Lamarck Cox and the then Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, Charles Williams, that she was employed at LAMCO both in Buchanan and Yekepa.  Thanks to her Cuttington training as a nurse, LAMCO soon offered her a scholarship to do graduate studies in Nursing at Boston University, where she earned a Master’s degree in Nursing Science. 

She returned to LAMCO and after working there for a while as a graduate nurse, she asked for early retirement because she told them she wanted to serve her alma mater, Cuttington, as a lecturer in its Nursing Department. LAMCO graciously consented to this request and Cecelia Morris was immediately hired as a lecturer in Cuttington’s Nursing Department.  From lecturer, she became professor, then Dean of the Nursing Division.

In the year 2000, she was awarded the year-long Hubert Humphrey fellowship at The Rollings School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, where she concentrated on Curriculum Development.  The goal of this outstanding young Liberian academic was to establish a Master’s Program in the Nursing Department at Cuttington University.  She described this as “a tall order” but credited Dr. Thomas Gaie, Dr. Saaim Naame, Dr. Thomas Koon, Ms. Sophie Parwon, Cecelia’s children and friends, then Episcopal bishop Edward Neufville and the then Cuttington president, Dr. Henrique Tokpa, who approved the program, through which Cecelia and her colleagues were able to open a Public Health Graduate Program.  Many Cuttington Nursing students became keenly interested in that program.  The main programs that resulted from this initiative were Nursing Administration and Nursing Education—great programs which have over the decades benefitted scores of Liberian and foreign Nursing professionals.

In 2008 Ms. Cecelia Morris retired from her Cuttington career and moved to the Liberia Board of Nursing and Midwifery (LBNM), where in 2010 she was elected Chair of the Board. There, Chairman Morris updated the Nursing and Midwifery Act, helped create the Bylaws and Constitution, helped establish the Nursing and Midwives Rules and Regulations, initiated LBNM Membership in the World Health Regulatory Body, established the Secretariat to conduct day-to-day operations, from one person to a staff of 13, created Administrative Policy—employees’ manual to guide inter-staff relations in the work place, and developed Standard Operations Procedures on Financial Operations. Cecelia also promoted good TEAMWORK, spotted and recruited talented, able workers, and spearheaded improved salary scale, based on academic qualifications, experience and tenure.  She also worked to strengthen licensing procedures for nurses and midwives, as well as Nursing and Midwifery training programs.

These are but few of the many professional achievements of Ms. Cecelia Morris as Board Chair of the Liberia Board of Nursing and Midwifery.  Because also of her kindness, her colleagues named her “the Dorcas in Education.”

Cecelia Aletha Morris was born in Hartford City, Grand Bassa County, the second of two sisters and one brother on the mother’s side; and five siblings on the father’s side.  A sister and three brothers predeceased her.

She partially grew up in Fortsville, Grand Bassa, with her mother and siblings and attended the school where everyone was in one hall learning what was being taught and even learning the other lessons one couldn’t help hearing.  She said in a narrative she prepared before her death that she also had to walk three to four miles each day, “because the luxury of cars, motorbikes was non-existent.”

She left Fortsville for Gbarnga in her early teens to live with her uncle, while her eldest sister, Mrs. Melvina Morris Nagbe (who married the Rev., later Bishop S. Trowen Nagbe, bishop of the United Methodist Church).  Both Melvina and her husband-to-be attended Cuttington.

After Stephen Nagbe and Melvina, now his wife, departed Liberia for further studies in the United States, Cecelia returned to Fortsville to live with her mother, a midwife, who was manning a clinic in Fortsville, while her children became her aides.  Cecelia wrote that her mother, “the nurse, midwife, dietician and almost everything pertaining to healthcare, was and still is my inspiration.

Cecelia later attended the Cape Palmas High School (CPHS), while staying with her sister and brother-in-law, Reverend S. Trowen Nagbe. In 1966 she returned to Monrovia, where her brother-in-law became Bishop Nagbe.  But how was she to attend school, since her mother was making only US$33.33 and her father was unemployed, while her brother-in-law, the bishop and her sister had just returned and had three babies to support?  Cecelia then decided to take both the Cuttington entrance as well as the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts exams. She fortunately passed both exams.  She decided to enroll at Cuttington and won a scholarship for the college in Suacoco—Cuttington.  That is now she got to Cuttington, and it was there that she pursued her chosen career, which was that of her mother.  She graduated in December 1970 and had to sit around for several months before taking the state board exam before starting her nursing career. It was while awaiting that exam that she started visiting her Cuttington schoolmate, Velma Okoro, and that is where Velma’s boss, Mr. J.L. Cox, spotted her.  The rest indeed is history.

Her last professional assignments were Chair of the University of Liberia Pacific Institute for Research and Education (ULPIRE), member of the National Research Ethical Board and Chairperson, Liberia Center for Outcomes Research in Mental Health (LICORMH).  She was also a member of the National Committee on Higher Education, VP, Scholarship Committee, Ministry of Health, Former VP, Liberian Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), and former member, Liberian Council of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS).     

One of the last professional things this outstanding public servant, Cecelia A. Morris, accomplished was the acquisition of a piece of land in Margibi County and commencement already, of construction of the Headquarters of the Liberia Board for Nursing and Midwifery.

On Thursday, November 19, 2020, at five o’clock p.m., the body of Mrs. Cecelia A.  Morris will be removed from the Samuel A. Stryker Funeral Home and taken to the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Paynesville.  Wake keeping begins at six o’clock p.m.

On Friday, November 20, 2020, the funeral service will be held at the same church, beginning at 10 o’clock a.m. 

The last rites and burial will take place in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, beginning at 10 o’clock a.m.

A Book of Condolence will be opened at the Liberian Board of Nursing and Midwifery (LBNM) in the James A.A. Pierre Building at Carey Street, Snapper Hill, Monrovia, from November 9 to 18, 2020. 

A statement from the LBNM, signed by its Registrar, Mrs. Cecelia C. Kpangbala-Flomo, calls on all Nursing and Midwifery stakeholders to participate in the funeral rites of the late Ms. Cecelia A. Morris “in appreciation of her good works in the health systems of Liberia and the world.”  

Survivors include her sons, Thomas Frank Holder, Jr. and Momolu Trowen Massaquoi; daughters, Dorkor Mehn and Judith Garsuah; sisters, Mrs Adelaide Fiske and Mrs. Wilhelmina Coleman; and brother, Perry Morris.  

Photo: The Late Ms. Cecelia A. Morris


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