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Executive VP glad for her start at TCC

Donna Morris traveled a winding path prior to being named executive vice president of the Hampton Roads Partnership six years ago. Her journey began at Tidewater Community College.

A 1973 graduate of Manor High School in Portsmouth, Morris considered starting college at either Old Dominion University or the University of North Carolina. She was torn about the decision and instead enrolled at TCC.

“If I stayed at home and went to college, my parents were going to give me a car,” she says, laughing.

Today Morris is proud she opted for the Toyota Corona and a TCC education that she credits with providing an excellent foundation.

“TCC was there in my moment of not being able to decide where I wanted to go to college,” she says. “I didn’t get behind in my studies, and all my credits transferred easily.”

Morris took classes at the old Portsmouth Campus and was impressed by the faculty (one of her classmates was current TCC business professor Peter Shaw). “The professors I had there were exceptional,” she says. “My creative writing class really helped. I was always fearful of my ability to write anything. I was encouraged by my professor. She was such a mentor to me; it was almost personalized instruction. That’s what made so much of my higher education experience stand out at TCC.”

Morris went on to graduate from ODU with a bachelor’s in special education and followed a road that included substitute teaching, working for the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce as a manager for legislative and urban affairs and holding leadership positions at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

A longtime volunteer with the ODU Alumni Association, Morris became its executive vice president and the university’s director of alumni relations in 1988, serving in that capacity for seven years.

She left that opportunity to join the Hampton Roads Partnership in its inception in 1996. The public-private nonprofit unites the region’s community leaders in business, nonprofit, local government, military, labor and education in order to facilitate regional collaboration. The Partnership is the only organization in Hampton Roads focusing on the region's strategic issues for the purpose of enhancing its competitiveness in the global economy.

“Our mission is to bring the chief elected officials and the business leaders, the college and university presidents, the military commands, together,” Morris says. “Through the Partnership, relationships are created from those connections, ultimately building something stronger.”

As a member of the TCC alumni board of directors, Morris is also looking to strengthen the TCC Alumni Association.

“Because we’re new, it’s really important to find the alumni who are out there,” she says. “That is one of the first things we need to do as an alumni association. We need to track down alums and keep some good data on them.”

Morris says she also would like to see the alumni association nurture current students to ensure they want to be active alumni after graduation, making the connection while they are students and then continuing the relationship. Establishing a network of graduates to mentor others is also in the works.

Being an active TCC alumna is something Morris wanted as a way to give back to the college where she started her successful career.

“I really am impressed with what’s going on at TCC,” she says. “The pride is strong, and I would love to do whatever I can to contribute to that.”

For information about the TCC Alumni Association, call (757) 822-1770 or log on to www.tidewateralumni.org