Warren Wilson president Morton receives high honor from governor for state service

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Lynn Morton, president of Warren Wilson, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on May 12, an honor bestowed by the governor.

Lynn Morton, president of Warren Wilson College, was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on May 12, the highest honor conferred by a North Carolina governor for state service.

Having served as president of Warren Wilson since 2017, Morton announced her retirement at the end of the 2021-22 academic year in March. She served as the eighth president and first woman president of the college.

Morton's last day at Warren Wilson was May 13, according to college staff. 

"I am so honored, and truly astonished, to have been recognized by Governor Cooper and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine," Morton said via email. "I can't adequately express my gratitude for this nomination and award."

Qualifications for this award consist of individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities and extra effort in their careers over the course of many years of service, according to a statement from Warren Wilson.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Morton said she became familiar with the Long Leaf Pine anthem from 1904, an ode to the state, through her father who worked at UNC Chapel Hill.

"I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be a recipient of this honor," Morton said. 

During her time as president, Morton headed multiple initiatives to increase enrollment such as expanding athletics and introducing two free tuition scholarships. The goal of these initiatives was to broaden the school's appeal while promoting diversity and equity. 

According to a statement from Warren Wilson, Morton is the recipient of multiple other teaching awards. 

Hope Williams nominated Morton for the governor's award. Williams serves as president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, an organization made up of the 36 private nonprofit, liberal arts and research colleges throughout the state. 

“Dr. Morton’s extensive career in higher education in North Carolina, culminating in her presidency of Warren Wilson College, has been so distinguished at Warren Wilson and in the broader higher education continuum of our state that I wanted to be sure her accomplishments were acknowledged and celebrated,” Williams said in a statement. “Her deep commitment to Warren Wilson and to its transformational role in the lives of students and families has been clear in her words and actions since she first became president.”

Morton was presented the award in a private ceremony with family and close friends. 

As Morton's time as president comes to a close, Lach Zemp, chair of the Board of Trustees, praised her leadership and thanked her for her service.

"During her five years of strategic and focused leadership, Warren Wilson College has not only weathered a host of challenges facing colleges and universities across the country but has experienced growth in enrollment and strengthening of its core values," Zemp said. "We will sorely miss her." 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.