Aug. 14, 2014 NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former Irish football team captain and standout running back Jim Morse has made a gift to the University of Notre Dame for the installation of FieldTurf in Notre Dame Stadium.
Installation of the artificial surface began the week after Notre Dame’s May 18 University Commencement Ceremony in the stadium, and work was completed last week, in plenty of time for the 2014 home- and season-opening football game Aug. 30 against Rice. The FieldTurf also is expected to provide additional practice opportunities in Notre Dame Stadium for Brian Kelly’s squad.
A generous benefactor to his alma mater, Morse also made a major gift that helped underwrite the Coleman-Morse Center. Named after the former Notre Dame star and his wife, as well as the late Thomas Coleman, the Coleman-Morse Center – located near the center of Notre Dame’s south quadrangle – was dedicated in 2001 and is home to the First Year of Studies, the Academic Services for Student-Athletes offices and the Office of Campus Ministry.
Morse – a private investor with interests in hotels, radio stations, aircraft and factory outlet malls – has served on the advisory council for Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters and on the Athletic Alumni Development Committee. He was the ABC radio voice of Notre Dame football from 1964-67.
His other gifts to Notre Dame have included the Morse Family Scholarship Fund, which supports about 12 students annually; funding for football and baseball scholarships; an endowed fellowship for MBA students; and a major gift for the Morse Recruiting Lounge in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, featuring banners for Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national football titles. Morse also has been a generous benefactor to Catholic education in his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.
The Notre Dame Monogram Club honored Morse in 2004 with its Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award.
A three-year starter at right halfback, Morse captained the 1956 Irish football team while becoming just the ninth Notre Dame player to lead the Irish in receiving during multiple seasons – making 17 catches for 424 yards in 1955 and 20 for 442 in 1956 (a Notre Dame record at the time for reception yardage). His 41.6 yards-per-catch (five for 208) in ’55 against USC set an NCAA record. He also played a key role in the 1954 comeback win over USC (23-14), scoring twice, including the decisive touchdown on a late 72-yard run (part of his 19-carry, 179-yard day). He is one of only two Irish running backs to catch passes for more than 1,000 yards in his career.
Morse scored 12 touchdowns in his career while playing alongside many future Irish All-Americans, among them quarterbacks Ralph Guglielmi and Paul Hornung, fullbacks Dan Schaefer and Nick Pietrosante, end Dan Shannon, tackle Frank Varrichione and guards Pat Bisceglia and Al Ecuyer. His fellow starting halfback in the 1956 backfield, two-sport star Aubrey Lewis, won the 400-meter hurdle competition at the 1956 NCAA track meet.
As a sophomore in 1954, Morse helped Notre Dame to a 9-1 record and final No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press poll. In 1955 he led the Irish to an 8-2 mark and final No.8 rank by AP. Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1957 (148th overall selection), Morse played two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
Jim and Leah Rae Morse are the parents of seven children, two of them Notre Dame graduates. One son, the late Jim Morse Jr., also played football as a defensive back for the Irish in 1976-77.
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