‘Bless Me to Be a Blessing to Others’

Photo by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Chancellor is featured speaker at Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast

Leo E. Morton, University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor, inspired the crowd at the 54th Greater Kansas City Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast with his story of faith and the guidance of family.

Morton’s audience, including dozens of mayors and hundreds of professionals from the five-county Kansas City metropolitan area, heard the story of a boy who grew up valuing hard work and education. Morton said faith led him to his education, including a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to engineering management positions and ultimately to leading Kansas City’s university.

“Kansas City was never in our plans,” said Morton, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala. Before settling here, he and his wife, Yvette, had moved 12 times in 20 years for work.

But Kansas City — and ultimately UMKC — were part of a bigger plan. Morton said he turns to the Bible each day for guidance.

“Its message is just what I need at difficult times, and there have been some dark days,” he said.

Morton credited his parents for leading the way: they regularly attended church, worked hard, gave back to their community, believed in the many benefits of education. Morton referenced Proverbs 29:18 “Without vision, the people perish.”

“My father told me and my brother we could be engineers,” Morton said. “He’d never seen a black engineer before. And the community encouraged this and it gave purpose to study.”

In 2014, Morton was named “Kansas Citian of the Year” by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Before coming to UMKC, Morton had been senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Aquila, Inc. Morton, a UMKC trustee since 2000, was in his third year as chairman of the trustees board when he stepped down to become interim chancellor and then permanent chancellor.

Morton joins other notable past Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast speakers including Shirley Bush Helzberg, Henry Bloch and Buck O’Neil. The annual breakfast focuses on themes of respect for all faiths, ethics, morality and spirituality.

Morton said each day he says the same prayer of servitude: “Bless me to be a blessing to others.”


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