Our Foundress

Elise LeNoir Morris

Elise LeNoir Morris was born in DeRidder, Louisiana on October 25, 1916, and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana at an early age. There she attended public and parochial schools graduating from Xavier Prep in 1933 and Xavier University with a B.A. degree in Liberal Arts in 1937. That year, she met John Morris, a transfer student from Dillard University studying medicine. When she asked his major field of study John answered “economics.” Elise, whose major field of study had been “Liberal Arts,” changed her field of study to economics. The two became friends, took long walks together, attended parties, fell in love and eventually married. Elise pursued further education at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where she studied Library Science. She was given a scholarship to Grambling University Teachers Training Institute to become certified to teach.

She received her credentials in 1938. Elise earned a Master of Education degree from Prairie View A&M College(university) of Texas in 1965 having majored in Special Education. Other graduate study took place at the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and Sam Houston University. She also pursued special religious studies at the University of St. Thomas.


Early in her career, Elise was employed as a teacher at Louisiana and Texas public and parochial schools in the Diocese of Galveston and Houston. Elise also taught at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic School at elementary and high school levels and was Director of Pre-school and Kindergarten at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish. Later, Elise was elected a member of the faculty of Galena Park Independent School District where she retired from the teaching profession in Galena Park I.S.D. There, she served in various teaching positions including high school English, French and Social Studies for the accelerated students. She also taught Special Education and served as Resource Department Head at Galena Park Middle School.

Elise received many honors and citations for her exceptional skills and contributions to the teaching profession. One of her teachings was covered in the Texas Outlook Magazine and another in the Houston Chronicle. Southern University Newman Center and the National Catholic Youth Organization cited her for providing leadership and support. She was honored in 1997, by a group of former students at their 45th class reunion.

Other than teaching she chose community service, volunteering in church and community agencies as a way of life. These services began in her youth and continued into adulthood. She became an active and viable member of the NAACP Youth groups, joining with the senior members in the struggle for justice for Negroes in education, public service, employment and citizenship. These experiences prepared her for the many roles she would pursue throughout her life.

Her avocation consisted of working with underprivileged persons and the uneducated. This gave her the opportunity to teach on a volunteer basis in a national government sponsored program for adult literacy and local governmental sponsored vacation programs for children and youth. Elise’s most extensive volunteer contributions have taken place in Houston.

She has served as a member of various boards and committees that deal with the problem of integration and legal and moral injustices. She served as chairman of the Committee of Administration of the Blue Triangle Branch (Negro) of the YWCA during the struggle of moving from a segregated organization into an integrated one. She was a representative to the Central Board that made the decision to integrate the organization in Houston. At the same time she was sharing similar experiences in the Girl Scouts and the Houston Public Schools as well as the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. She served as a speaker, a campaign worker, a moderator and a panelist in efforts to bring the issues before those responsible for taking appropriate action. She is known for her ability to get things done and for standing up and defending all issues in which she believed. She has served as a Girl Scout Leader and trainer of Girl Scout Leaders. She also served as a Boy Scout Den Mother. Elise served on three boards of United Way and Community Action Agencies. She was cited by each of these agencies for her dedicated and outstanding service often being the first and only black to serve during her time. Among these agencies were Vocational Guidance Agency, CAED, Gulf Coast Community Action and AARP Trainer. She also served as volunteer of a six week Head Start Program in the Settegast Addition. Her volunteer staff included her family. The project received national acclaim that led to other volunteer services that assisted some of the residents of the subdivision in becoming qualified to vote and in directing them toward help that was to enable them to obtain clear deeds to their property. As a resident of Clinton Park subdivision, she worked avidly in many leadership roles as the community struggled for needed improvements. She was a founding officer in the Clinton Park Civic Club and spent many hours of volunteer service representing the Civic Club as it sought and struggled for needed improvements, for adequate public services, police protection, water, transportation, trash and garbage pickup, house to house mail service to name a few.

Elise is a golden live member in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Drexel Society, Inc., The Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary and the Fourth Degree Ladies of Grace and a life member in the Parent Teacher association, local, state, and national level.

Awards and honors include, The Papal /Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the Gold and Silver Medals of Honor from the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, the Carthegena Medal of Honor from The Ladies of Grace, KPC and Xavier University, Outstanding Alumni-Houston area. Plaques and certificates were received from Vocational Guidance Service, Inc., a United Way Agency, United States Bureau of Prisons “One America,” Essence Magazine-Project for Commitment to Humanity and numerous others for “dedicated and outstanding community service.” Listings appear in International “Who’s Who in The World of Women,” “Dictionary of International Biography,” Who’s Who in Catholic America,” and Who’s Who among African-American Catholics in 1988 as the Presenter of the gifts to Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy.

Scroll to Top