Marvin Morrison, a Gilbert pioneer whose philanthropy and vision played a key role in development, education and planning in the East Valley, died Monday at the age of 83.
Among his more visible accomplishments, some of which his family continues to be involved in, are the Morrison Ranch residential development in Gilbert, and Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, which he created with an endowment in 1982.
In 1997, Morrison donated land to ASU Polytechnic in East Mesa, and became namesake of the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness.
“He’s a very generous, caring person,” said Chuck Backus, retired former provost of ASU Polytechnic and former vice president of ASU, who’s been friends of the family nearly 40 years. “It’s just part of his nature to give.”
Morrison was born into one of the town’s first farming families. In fifth grade, he met his future wife of 62 years, June Neely, of another pioneer family.
In 1946, when Morrison returned to Gilbert after serving in World War II, he joined now late brother Kenneth to start the Morrison Brothers Ranch.
The company would boom to include a 2,400-acre cotton, hay and alfalfa farm, the Arizona Dairy Co. in southeast Mesa and the Windmill Ranch in Coconino and Yavapai counties.
Fifty years later, Morrison and his family would turn the company’s attention to the newest booming industry in Gilbert. The family developed 2,000 acres of farmland into Morrison Ranch, which includes hundreds of homes in a handful of homeowners associations known for their finely groomed green grass, three-lined streets, and white picket fences.
He served on the Gilbert Unified School District governing board for 14 years, and as president of the Maricopa County School Boards Association. He was appointed to Arizona’s first Atomic Energy Commission and served 27 years on the board for Arizona Public Service Company, or APS.
Twice he was named Man of the Year in Arizona Agriculture, and he served as president of the Arizona 4-H Youth Foundation. He was a founding member of Arizona Town Hall, and was president and a founder for the Gilbert Rotary Club, among other organizations he served including for 43 years on the administrative board for the First United Methodist Church of Gilbert.
“Marvin was an unusual individual with wide-ranging interests,” said daughter-in-law Elaine Morrison.
Visitation is planned 8:30 a.m. Friday, at the First United Methodist Church of Gilbert, 331 S. Cooper Road, Gilbert, followed by a 10 a.m. funeral.
Memorial gifts can be sent to First United Methodist Church of Gilbert, Arizona FFA Foundation, Arizona 4-H Youth Foundation, Morrison Institute or Gilbert Historical Society.