While a student at Ohio State, Ruth Penrod funded her optometric education by working for 25 cents an hour at the White Haines Optical Company in Columbus. In her last year of optometry school, she married Warren G. Morris (BS’49). While her new husband was in the Army, she began her practice of optometry in Toledo with an established optometrist who, unfortunately, passed away only nine weeks after her arrival. For the next three years, Dr. Ruth Morris worked hard to learn the business side of an optometric practice; her efforts were so successful that her husband was able to join her after he returned from WWII and later earned his optometry degree from Ohio State.
Drs. Ruthie and Warren Morris practiced together for 37 years, until his sudden death in 1986. They served five generations of patients in Northwest Ohio. Their division of labor and love in the office was to have Dr. Ruth care for the vision needs of adolescent and adult patients, including contact lenses, while Dr. Warren cared for the children. Both emphasized visual performance and said, “Our patients must be able to use their vision comfortably and effectively at work and play or we have not done our jobs as optometrists.” Together, they assured that each child received vision care regardless of his or her parents’ finances. They educated their patients, as well as the teachers in their community, about the importance of eye safety, vision care, and reading performance.
They also “adopted” many optometry students who visited their office and provided invaluable counsel and resources to assure that each of their “optometry kids” achieved his or her own professional goals. Dr. Kevin Alexander, who was an Ohio State faculty member and then went on to become President of both the Ohio Optometric Association and the American Optometric Association, Dean at the Michigan College of Optometry, and (now) President of the Marshall B. Ketchum University in Fullerton, California, said the Morrises loaned him some money to open his private practice in Columbus; he was told at the time, “Just pay us back whenever you can.”
Dr. Ruth served her community as well as her profession on the boards of Toledo civic and performing arts organizations. She participated vigorously at local, state, and national levels in Business and Professional Women (BPW). In her early BPW years, she developed a program to educate the public about seat belts and driver safety. In her later years, she established a vision clinic for indigent patients in Toledo. She chaired the education committee of the Ohio Optometric Association for many years and established the Optometric Recognition Award at the state and national levels for optometrists who attend a higher number of continuing education courses than the minimum necessary for annual licensure renewal. She also served on the American Optometric Association’s Council on Clinical Optometric Care, during which time she helped to establish quality assurance measurements for the profession.
One of the college’s most distinguished alumni, Dr. Ruth gave the Convocation address on June 13, 1991, to that year’s graduating class. She said, “Follow your dream. Be prepared to take some risks. Risk and change will be with you all your life. Both are synonymous with opportunity. Only you can know, shape, and control the dream you have in your heart tonight.”
Also in 1991, Drs. Ruth and Warren Morris (posthumously) were awarded the H. Ward Ewalt Medal for Service to Optometry by The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Because of the enduring legacy that Ruth and her beloved husband, Warren, gave to Ohio optometry, the Ohio Optometric Association’s highest annual award is named “The Warren G. and Ruth P. Morris Optometrist of the Year” for outstanding contributions to the profession of optometry and public service. The recipient of this high honor has the privilege of keeping Dr. Warren Morris’s mounted spot retinoscope for one year and then presenting it to the next year’s honoree at the OOA annual convention.