What is LEAVE A LEGACY
Tom and Dorothy Morris
on their wedding day.
Florida Couple Leaves Entire Fortune to
Assure Care of Four-Legged Friends
Tom and Dorothy Morris of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida,
were not even on the University of Georgia’s mailing
list during their lifetimes. Now, their names will
be etched into the campus record books forever.
The Morris’, who had no children, decided to leave
their entire $2 million estate to the
Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
But why? Neither Tom nor Dorothy, or any of their
family, for that matter, attended UGA.
“When their lawyer contacted us, we knew very little
about Mr. and Mrs. Morris, and didn’t have any idea
why they left a gift to our college, or how much it
would be,” said Keith Prasse, dean of the college.
“He told us they chose UGA because they heard we are
the best veterinary college in the country.”
That’s true, according to their lawyer, Peter Armold
of Ft. Lauderdale, who is also the Morris' nephew
and executor of their estate.
“My uncle looked at veterinary colleges and decided
the University of Georgia had the finest and that’s
why he left his money there,” said Armold. “But I
didn’t know how he made that decision.”
University of Georgia
College of Veterinary
Medicine received a $2
million bequest from the
The source of the Morris' regard for the UGA
college turns out to be their veterinarian, Dr.
William Meriwether, a 1954 graduate of the college.
And it evidently was his casual recommendation that
landed the college one of the largest private gifts
in its history.
Thomas M. Morris Jr., who died in 1985, and his
wife, Dorothy (Dotty) May Morris, who died in 2003,
bequeathed their entire estate, valued at about $2
million, to the veterinary college – a place they
never visited and knew about only through
Meriwether. They specified that the money be used
for veterinary student scholarships.
The scholarship fund is expected to yield about
$90,000 annually, which the college will use to
provide scholarships for a new program that allows
students to study simultaneously for a DVM (doctor
of veterinary medicine) degree and a Ph.D.
Tom and Dotty, originally from New Jersey, married
in 1949 and settled in Ft. Lauderdale, where they
operated several successful businesses. Tom bought
and sold real estate and became a contractor. Dotty
co-managed their properties and served as their
With no children of their own, the Morris' showered
affection on animals, and especially cats, according
“They always had cats in their apartment,” he said.
“They would adopt strays off the street. My uncle
was very generous and he took good care of the cats.
He fed them chopped liver. The cats were their
He also made sure the cats received necessary medical
attention from their veterinarian. Meriwether says
he lost track of the number of Morris cats he
treated over 20 years.
“Mr. Morris was a fine gentleman and an excellent client,
and he took extremely good care of his cats,”
Meriwether recalls. “They lived a long time. I don’t
think I had to euthanize more than one.”
Several times Morris talked to Meriwether about
doing something after his death to help animals. It
was apparently those conversations that steered
Morris toward UGA.
“He asked me where I went to veterinary school and I
told him the University of Georgia,” said
Meriwether, who practiced for more than 30 years
before retiring in the 1990s.
“He asked if it was a good school and I told him it
was excellent, one of the best in the country. He
asked if there was anything he could do to help the
college and I told him I was sure they would
appreciate a bequest for scholarships.”
Meriwether said that though his opinion of the
veterinary college was honest, he wasn’t trying to
persuade Morris to give money to the college. “It
was just an off-hand remark. But he had a lot of
confidence in me, which I appreciated, and I’m glad
I was able to help.”
Armold said his uncle’s insistence on leaving the
bequest to UGA was consistent with his success in
business. “He was a smart businessman and took a
hard-headed business approach to everything he did,”
Armold said. “He did some research and decided the
University of Georgia was where his money should
Prasse said that while a gift of this size isn’t
common, it’s actually not unusual for veterinary
colleges to receive gifts from people who have no
connection to the college.
“It’s the way many big gifts come in,” he said. “The
relationship between people and animals is profound.
That relationship is often enhanced by
veterinarians, and veterinary schools are often the
benefactors. We understand that, and we’re certainly
very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Morris.”
Prasse said the dual degree program that will allow
students to work toward DVM and Ph.D. degrees at the
same time will be one of a few such programs in the
country. The program is designed primarily to
encourage students to prepare for careers in
academic and private institutions that require
advanced research training.
The program will take six to seven years to
complete, and without scholarship support students
will incur prohibitive debt, Prasse said. So the
stipends provided by the Morris bequest will be
valuable in easing their financial burden, he said.
LEAVE A LEGACY®
wishes to thank the
University of Georgia for
sharing this story.