BOISE -- Longtime philanthropist, Boise State University supporter, and patron of the arts Velma Morrison died on Thursday, June 20, at the age of 92, Boise State confirmed.
In a statement released by the university Sunday, Boise State President Bob Kustra said Morrison's invaluable and long-lasting contribution to the university will forever be embodied in the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts.
“We are saddened by the loss of Velma Morrison, who was a true friend and supporter of the Boise State community,” Kustra said. “She was like the guardian angel of the Morrison Center -- she guided it and protected it and shepherded it so future generations could enjoy it and continue to learn from and be inspired by its productions.”
A native of Tipton, California, Morrison worked as a nurse in Alaska, as a riveter during World War II, and as a restaurant owner. She was running a restaurant in Bakersfield, California, when she first met her future husband Harry W. Morrison, who was in town for a Boise Junior College Football game.
Harry Morrison was co-founder of the Boise-based engineering and construction firm Morrison-Knudsen Co. The company is credited with building the Hoover Dam, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, as well as a host of other major projects.
The couple was married in 1959 and lived together in Boise until his death in 1971.
A long-time supporter of Boise Junior College, it had been Harry's dream to build a performing arts center for the city of Boise. After his death in 1971, Velma took up his cause. In 1984, after years of fundraising, a $3.5 million donation by the Morrison Family Foundation, and supplemental help from the Idaho legislature, Velma realized Harry's dream with the opening of the Morrison Center on the Boise State campus.
"It was overdue for the community," Velma told KTVB at the center's 20th anniversary celebration in 2004. "You know they needed something like the Morrison Center."
Throughout the years, Velma was presented with various honors by the university. In 1984, she received the Silver Medallion, the university's highest recognition for service. She was named an honorary lifetime member of of the Boise State University Foundation in 2004. And, in 2010, she received an honorary doctorate from the university in recognition of her philanthropy and support.
In addition to her support of Boise State, Velma Morrison worked extensively with the Harry W. Morrison Foundation, donating millions of dollars to various organizations across the state, including the World Center for Birds of Prey. The Peregrine Fund's Velma Morrison Interpretive Center opened in 1994 as the centerpiece of the organization's education effort.
In a statement Sunday, Boise Mayor David Bieter echoed Kustra's thoughts on Morrison's legacy, saying:
"Velma Morrison was a true friend of Boise and a revered figure in our city's arts community. Boise has lost one of its greatest benefactors, but her legacy will live on through the Morrison Center and the many other artists and projects she so generously supported."
There has been no word of a local public memorial service in honor of Morrison, but KTVB will be sure let you know if and when that happens.