CEHHS colleagues remember Liz Morden
The veteran administrative assistant, who passed away last month, was known as a caring friend and tireless ally of students.
CEHHS Administrative Assistant Liz Morden had recently achieved a significant work milestone just before she passed away in late November at age 63. This year marked Morden’s 20th year at UM-Dearborn, where she served the College of Education and Health and Human Services with a generous spirit and a human touch. In recent years, she was the go-to support person for college graduate studies, a role where she patiently helped hundreds of faculty and students navigate the deadlines, requirements and nuances of CEHHS’s master’s and doctoral programs. Last week, we had a chance to chat with a number of her CEHHS colleagues, all of whom had heartwarming memories of Morden’s contributions to the college and their personal lives. We’ve shared their stories below. And if you’d like to leave your own remembrance for Morden’s family, please visit her obituary page.
We can all get frustrated with our jobs at times, and particularly when you’re in a customer service-type role, you have to field a lot of redundant questions about problems that students might be having. But Liz was so patient and understanding when it came to students. She could talk them off the ledge and deescalate situations with her friendliness and positivity. When we go back to the office, it’s definitely going to be weird because the two of us were always the first two in the office. It seems very odd to me that she won’t be there to share a ‘good morning.’
- Jonathan Larson, CEHHS Assistant Director of Advising and Records
Even though I didn’t get to work with Liz closely, I can feel the loss and I know many programs are feeling the loss. Many of the faculty I spoke with sincerely valued her deep institutional knowledge. As a program, Health and Human Services has had a lot of different chairs over the years and the college has had many deans, so having somebody with 20 years of experience was incredibly helpful. And I can say personally we really relied on her in the past few years to get our fledgling master’s programs off the ground.
- Lisa Martin, Interim Chair, Department of Health and Human Services
To know Liz is to know how much she loved her family. Family was huge for her. Also, she was spirit led and spirit filled, and she would let that be known. Often we would talk about our kids and the values she brought to raising her three boys, making sure they were brought up with manners and were educated and focused. She raised her boys with such integrity and I admired that. I remember once I asked her, ‘How do you feel about arranged marriages? Because I’ve got a daughter and you have a son about the same age. Let’s just do this.’ In fact, the funny thing is she wanted girls, but got all boys. And we would jokingly say that ‘her boys would give her her girls.’ And sure enough, she ended up having three granddaughters.
- Monique Davis, Executive Assistant to the CEHHS Dean
Every time I think of Liz, I think of sweetness. Sweet and kind, all the time. It was the simple things. She used to show up in my office for no reason, just to say hi. Or when she knew I was sick with a cold, she would stop by to see how I was feeling. And she was always willing to help out. One time, I remember I was working on updating photos for our website, and many times, people shy away from getting their picture taken. But not Liz. She actually posed for me, as if she was helping a student, and let me take as many pictures as I needed. She was so patient and so kind.
- Claudia Lugo-Meeks, CEHHS Instructional Learning Intermediate
My interactions with Liz were less about work and more about exercise and health. Liz was seriously the fastest walker I have ever met. We used to do a walk once a week, and I’m half her age, but I could not keep up with her. I mean, we couldn’t really have a conversation because she was so fast! But I always think of how energetic she was. She was such a vital person, and it makes it much harder to imagine her gone. I’m going to really miss our walks.
- Raya Samet, Education, Health and Human Services Librarian
Liz was very bubbly and loved to laugh. I think that was one of her ways of coping with difficulties. She cared about people so deeply. If a student came to her and needed to talk, she would drop everything. And she was the main person who organized the potlucks, the parties and any festive things we did together.
- Amanda McBride, Program Assistant, CEHHS, Office of Student Success
I only recently started in the CEHHS area in January, and my office is tucked back in a little corner, so it’s not a hub. It was a tough transition for me, and I also had some other things going in my life. But Liz was the first person that reached out to me and welcomed me in. She always made sure I was invited to lunch, or anytime the group was going to do something, Liz made sure I was never forgotten.
- Shari Marshall, Departmental Administrative Specialist
I initially met Liz when I was interviewing for my position. And by the time I left the interview, I knew about her children, her grandchildren and her church. She was so welcoming and warm. She made you feel like you were family.
- Sharon Harris, Administrative Assistant, CEHHS Dean’s Office
Liz somehow always knew when you needed a hug or some encouragement. I remember this one particular day, I picked up a bag off my desk and there was a little message from her with a Bible verse and some words of encouragement. There were countless moments like that with Liz, where you just knew she saw you and saw your heart.
- Danielle DeFauw, Education Associate Professor and Field Placement Director
As I was decorating the Christmas tree with my husband this past weekend, I pulled out two ornaments: a red treble clef and a gold double eighth note, which both jingle when you shake them. I immediately smiled remembering that Liz had given them to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I don't ever remember sharing with her how much I love music or what a big part of my life it is, but she was the kind of person who paid attention to details like this about a person. Because she was such a great listener to her friends and colleagues, she knew just how to make you feel special or seen in this way.
- Lindsey Tarrant Bookman, CEHHS Director of Advising and Records
Like many families, we have a tradition of baking cookies around the holidays, and my daughters help with that. Several years ago, I started bringing some of those cookies into the office. And the year after the first year I did that, hanging on the door to my office was a bag, with a bag of flour inside and a note from Liz that said, ‘Enjoy making cookies with your daughters this year.’ I took that as her way of saying that these traditions are really special, and you’re going to wake up one day and your daughters are going to be in college, and it’s going to take a global pandemic to bring them back home to you.
On a professional level, I know that the interactions Liz had with students were some of the most enjoyable parts of her job. Being at graduate open houses, greeting students, answering their questions, reminding them to register, having conversations about what stressed them out — she would always take the time to listen to them. A lot of times in our lives, when we call someone in a customer service-type position, we don’t always remember who we talk with. Students always seemed to remember it was Liz. They knew her name, they knew her face. I think that says a lot about the impact she had on our students.
- Stein Brunvand, CEHHS Associate Dean
When I think of Liz, I think of laughter. No matter what was going on, no matter how stressful it was, all it would take was a look or a raised eyebrow and you could suddenly find yourself engaging in that kind of hysterical laughter that you really have to work to suppress. I remember one time we were trying to change the water cooler bottle, and I saw her hoist it up, and she got it to the top of the stand, but at the last second, it slipped and the big bottle came crashing down. It turned out she had just put lotion on her hands, and it was just craziness for a couple of seconds as we made sure everyone was OK and that no one was going to get electrocuted. But then it was just laughter — uncontrollable laughter.
- Donna Kerry, Certification and Field Officer, CEHHS, Office of Student Success
Liz had the most enthusiastic personality along with such a great work ethic. She was always looking to help out in any way she could, especially when she could interact with our graduate students. One time, I was just too busy to go to one of the local teacher conferences and Liz volunteered to go for me. Liz packed up all of the supplies for the table and had a tremendous day recruiting teachers for our programs, passing out CEHHS swag and visiting with the other vendors in the exhibit hall. She would text me and send me photos of the day to let me know that everything was going well. She absolutely loved talking with people all day long and seeing the various animals brought to the exhibit hall. After that first time, representing CEHHS at our local teacher conferences became one of her favorite things to do.
Liz was always a bright, shining star in our CEHHS family. Her rays of light brightened our days, her kind words encouraged us to be our best, and her caring demeanor showed her love for us. Liz will still be our star up in the heavens watching out for all of us. We will never forget you, Liz!
- Susan Everett, Chair, Department of Education
Early on in my tenure, I was introduced as being the interim dean, and Liz made a point to come to my office and tell me this role was not just about getting the administrative house together, it was about getting the human side of the house together. Liz was one of the folks who constantly held my feet to the fire when it came to how we treat each other and find value in the team. I will always be grateful for that, because it’s a huge piece of the puzzle when we talk about CEHHS being a family. She was always gentle in how the message was delivered, but she was the person who constantly reminded me that good is never good enough. I’m going to miss her strength, but I’m so thankful to have had the privilege of working with her.
- Ann Lampkin-Williams, CEHHS Dean