Minnesota Law

Fall 2021
Faculty Focus

Internationally Renowned

Professor Fred Morrison retires after five decades at Minnesota Law, where he deepened opportunities for international learning and engagement

Professor Morrison two years ago at a special lecture celebrating his 50th anniversary with the Law School

DURING A 52-YEAR CAREER AT MINNESOTA LAW,  Fred Morrison opened students’ eyes to the world and introduced foreign students to the American legal system by establishing international programs that have become hallmarks of the school.

Morrison, who announced his retirement at the end of the spring semester, provided a steady hand of guidance and leadership to the Law School, the University, the federal government, and other nations. “With more than 50 years at the University of Minnesota Law School, Fred Morrison has offered unparalleled service, encyclopedic institutional memory, and rigorous teaching,” says Garry W. Jenkins, dean and William S. Pattee Professor of Law. “Through his leadership, dedication, and influence, Minnesota Law has become one of the nation’s leading law schools in the field of international law, with global reach and connections. Generations of students and alumni from the J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. programs, faculty, and staff owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his innumerable contributions, wise counsel, gentle mentorship, and world-class scholarship. His transformative impact at this institution will be felt for generations to come. He will be deeply missed.”

Morrison, the Popham, Haik, Schnobrich/Lindquist & Vennum Professor of Law, joined the faculty in 1969 to teach international law. He arrived with a global perspective. Morrison started his legal education as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, wrote his political science Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton University on the Supreme Court of Switzerland, and completed his American law studies at the University of Chicago.

In the early 1990s, Morrison established Minnesota Law’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) program for international students—one of the first in the country. He also developed the Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) program and other study abroad opportunities, working in close partnership on these international law efforts with then-dean Robert Stein ’61. For these reasons and more, Kara Galvin calls Morrison the school’s grandfather of international programs. 

“Fred really championed interna- tional partnerships and relationships with the Law School and was the face of that for many, many years,” says Galvin, director of international and graduate programs. “It has cast a more global light on the education we are providing at the Law School and the experiences of our law students. That’s valuable to everyone involved in the legal profession.” 

In teaching roughly 4,500 law students during his career, Morrison found it rewarding to educate them about the Constitution and the rule of law. He also enjoyed bringing global perspectives to the classroom, whether they derived from interna- tional students attending Minnesota Law or students who participated in its study abroad programs. 

Morrison continued amassing international experience as a profes- sor and consultant. He was a Fulbright Professor in Germany and worked as a visiting professor in China and Germany. Morrison also advised countries with troubled political systems, such as Kosovo, Ukraine, and South Sudan, where he helped leaders develop its constitution.

“I have been most excited about having the opportunity to work on real-life applications of what I’ve been teaching,” Morrison says. “Working in foreign legal systems helps to better understand the way they approach problems, which is not necessarily the way we approach problems.” 

Professor Morrison's official portrait when he joined the faculty

Always Prepared to Serve

Service was an equally important aspect of Morrison’s career. When the University or the State Department came calling, he stepped up to solve often controversial and complex problems. Morrison served as the counselor of international law, equivalent to the deputy assistant secretary of state, representing the United States during an international controversy in Nicaragua and later before the International Court of Justice. 

During a contentious time between the University faculty and the Board of Regents, Morrison brokered substantive changes to tenure policies as chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee. He also played a major role in establishing a health insur- ance plan for University faculty and staff. For this work and more, Morrison received the University President’s Award for Outstanding Service in 1997. 

Meredith McQuaid ’91, associate vice president and dean of international programs at the University, witnessed Morrison’s impact on Minnesota Law and the University during more than 25 years as his colleague. While at the Law School, she absorbed many lessons that shaped her own approach to leadership: Morrison’s in-depth prepara- tion for meetings, his curiosity about the world, and his welcoming of international students. Morrison’s sense of humor and willingness to listen to other views made working for him and with him a rewarding experience.

“He has truly been the advocate for international education, in the form of international law courses and the LL.M. program for foreign lawyers,” McQuaid says. “When Law School faculty discussed issues that seemed to be about purely domestic con- cerns, Fred reminded them of their job to prepare students to work in the world, and the need for students to understand different cultures and traditions. That’s a legacy for which we are all better off—and one we must work to continue.”

‘A Mixture of Patience and Purpose’

Khary Hornsby ’05 got to know Morrison as a tough-but-kind professor of constitutional law who liked to wear ties reflecting the class’s topic of the day. Hornsby later came to admire the avuncular professor during the seven-plus years he worked with him (2009–17) as director of international and graduate programs at the Law School. Now assistant dean and chief global and executive programs officer at University of California, Irvine School of Law, Hornsby witnessed how people turned to Morrison for his guidance, given diplomatically and backed by deep expertise and experience.

To Hornsby, Morrison embodies the ethos of Minnesota Law: to leave a positive impact on the world, society, and each other in an under- stated and compassionate way. “I think of the Law School as a consis- tent and quiet force in the U.S. and world legal culture,” he says. “Fred is a mixture of patience and purpose, and that’s how he was able to get things done.”

Suzy Frisch is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.