Jon Moris, PhD

Jun 17, 2015 | 7459 views | 0 0 comments | 128 128 recommendations | email to a friend | print
June 19, 1939 ~ May 30, 2015 It is with immense sadness that we write to inform you that our father, Jon Moris, passed away on May 30. He was a bright and most generous person and will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues, and students.

Jon was born in Kiomboi, Tanzania, on June 19, 1939, to Dr. Stanley W. Moris and Mrs. Edith Okerlund. His father was a Lutheran missionary doctor who worked in Tanganyika from 1938 to 1965 at four different hospitals and the leprosarium in Iambi.

Jon attended the Rift Valley Academy (RVA) in Kenya until 1957, when he returned to the United States to attend Seattle Pacific and later Northwestern University, where he earned his MA and PhD in Anthropology.

Jon returned to East Africa in 1963 to do research for his PhD thesis. For over 15 years he taught and conducted research for the Universities of Makarere (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), and from 1973 to 1976 he was team leader for the Masai Range Project for Tanzania (then USAID’s largest Tanzania Project).

In 1980 he began teaching at Utah State University in Logan, where he taught 14 different courses in the areas of comparative rural development; African pastoralism; applied, economic, and cultural anthropology; international development; and peoples of Africa and of the World.

He retired from his career at Utah State University Eastern Campus in Blanding, UT.

On Friday, May 29, at the age of 75 and having only just fully retired, Jon was with a colleague and longtime friend when he felt a sudden pain in his chest followed by weakness on the left side of his body. He was taken to the local hospital, where his state quickly deteriorated, and was airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

A CT scan revealed he was suffering from a dissection of the aorta and a tear in a coronary artery of the heart. After a long and complicated operation, he never woke up in the post-op ICU and died shortly after.

Jon had no known current illnesses, and it was a massive shock to lose him so suddenly. Our consolation is that he lived his life to the very end pursuing his lifelong passions of teaching and writing. He had plans to publish, do research, and to travel.

The family plans to commemorate Jon’s life during a private celebration on July 25 at the Little Church of the Wildwood in Featherville in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho.

Our grandfather built a family log cabin there where we spent many holidays and memorable times together. Any friend or relative who would like to attend is most welcome and should contact his daughter, Julia, for further information. She can be reached at

A ceremony was held at 7 p.m. on June 10 at St. Christopher’s Mission in Bluff, UT, where Jon attended mass on Sundays. All of his friends, colleagues and students from the Utah State University were invited to join in remembrance of his life.

Jon is survived by his brother, Donald; his sister, Ann; three children: Lisa, Nathan, and Julia; and eight grandchildren.

Card of thanks
The Moris family thanks friends, family, and colleagues from around the world for their tremendous outpouring of love and support. Jon had such an impact on everyone’s lives, and he will be thoroughly missed.

Jon had an impressive collection of more than twenty thousand books. In particular, his collection on Africa, the Southwest, Native Americans and People of the World contains many unique, out of print and hard to find volumes.

With the help of his colleagues and friends, we hope to find a home for them so that students, scholars, faculty members and all those interested can benefit from this abundant resource.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to establish a fund to perpetuate Jon’s goal of a lasting archive for his books. We would also be grateful for those who wish to share remembrances of Jon.

Please send donation inquiries and remembrances to

With deep sorrow,
Lisa, Nathan, and Julia
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