Bob Morgan ’64
Alumnus leads a full life of travel and continuing education.
Bob Morgan ’64 has lived in San Francisco for 45 years. Yet, when you lose yourself in one of his stories, you can still detect the slightest hint of a southern drawl, compliments of his strong roots in Asheville, North Carolina. A captivating storyteller, he takes you back to a time of flying in his father’s plane to visit independent schools in the northeast, backpacking across Canada after college, or the love story of his parents during WWII.
He’s casual about mentioning his flights to visit secondary schools. He and his three siblings each attended private schools, and he had grown up knowing he would one day leave home for his education. Though Bob was young, his father, Bob Morgan Sr., trusted him with the decision to attend The Hill School in Pottstown, many miles away from home. A year later, when Bob Jr. found the warmth and familial camaraderie he was seeking at Perkiomen School, he once again said to his son, “Whatever your decide, it’s fine by me. It’s your decision.”
It turned out to be the right one.
“There was a feeling of belonging,” Bob shares. “You were with a group of people in an environment that made you want to do your best and to grow!”
Palling around with his buddies, listening to rock and roll, heading down to Hendricks’ Little Store for red licorice sticks, Bob loved his decision to transfer to Perkiomen. With fond memories of his Latin Teacher, Mr. Sutcliffe (“He was a real character!”), Social Dean Marian Stefano, and Head of School, Dr. Roberts and his wife (Bob watched the funeral of JFK in their living room), Bob felt at home and cared for at Perkiomen. He sang in the choir, worked on the Perkiomenite newspaper, ran cross country, tried one year of fencing, and watched his little brother, Harry ’66, excel on the athletic fields.
After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bob headed to an executive training program in New York City working for Standard Brands. Afterwards, he spent a year in Detroit, though it should have been six months (the unintended consequence of him doing so well they couldn’t operate there without him!). After a year of hard work, Bob chose to concentrate on joy and exploration outside of the work force. He traveled across the Canadian wilderness, camping, hiking, and experiencing Vancouver where he would have stayed had it not been for the Canadian government denying outsiders work due to a recession. This led him to his life in San Francisco where he worked for an old, established insurance agency until his retirement at the age of 45.
Bob reflects on those early years and the impact Perkiomen had on his decisions, “I can attribute a great deal to the foundation that Perkiomen gave me— to actually believe in myself, trust myself, and apply myself.”
The grandson of a successful businessman (David Morgan) who lost it all during the Great Depression and then rebuilt it with the help of Cornelia Vanderbilt, a grand work ethic and dedicated spirit was passed along to his own father, Bob Sr., whose life was full of decisions that would reverberate throughout history. One of those decisions was his enlistment in the Air Force before the draft in 1940 after he had already launched a career at the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio with a degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. By 1945, Bob Sr. had completed 50 tours – 25 in Europe and 25 in the Pacific – as a bomber pilot with the Memphis Belle aka the Flying Fortress, a Boeing B-17 bomber jet, and then with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
As Bob Jr. recounts, after the first 25 tours, they told his father, “But you’re home, sir! We would like you to train pilots here in the states!” He said about the B-29: “I gotta fly this plane.’” The Air Force’s response was this: “If you want to fly it, we’ll give you your own squadron.”
Bob Sr. went on to lead the first raids over Japan in his B-29 Superfortress which he named The Dauntless Dotty after his wife, Dorothy “Dot.” Their eldest daughter was born as he was leaving for Japan. With a new wife and daughter at home and having beaten the survival odds of other bomber pilots, he was eventually ordered by his superiors to go home to his family after over 2,000 hours of flying. It’s not lost on Bob Jr. that the Air Force’s decision to defy his father’s wishes to continue his career as a bomber pilot had a direct impact on his own life!
Bob. Sr. went on to earn the rank of Colonel while being state side with his wife and four kids, working at and flying for Morgan Manufacturing, his father’s furniture manufacturing company. Eventually, he would find himself flying back and forth to his kids’ schools to pick them up for holiday breaks. Bob Jr. recalls that first winter in Pennsylvania as a 9th grader at The Hill School. Having never experienced a northeast winter, he remembers it being so cold. He wondered if his father’s plane would make it back to Asheville.
It always did. They flew together many times over the years, eventually as passengers to England when his father was asked to be present during the unveiling of the American wing of the British Air Museum. Afterwards, he had tea with the Queen Mother, who was, of course, Queen of England during WWII. This meeting was featured on the cover of The London Times! Bob Sr.’s story was told in a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and the 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle by Catherine Wyler and David Puttnam. Through all of his accomplishments, at the time of his death in 2004, Bob Sr., the Colonel, was better known to four people: Sandra Lea, Robert Jr., Harry, and Peggy, simply as “Dad.”
Today, Bob Jr. has a full life of traveling (one of his favorite locations is Rome!), going to the symphony to hear live Beethoven, and taking classes. Of his own life, Bob reflects, “I have been very fortunate and blessed in so many ways. I look back and regret very little. Having lost two of my siblings so young, I realize you can become very disillusioned with life. I get it. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
With 250 courses under his belt within an adult learning program in the Bay Area, Bob will never stop learning nor moving forward. Currently, he’s taking courses on Sondheim, astronomy, and the history of California art.
In 2016, he contributed two pink dogwood trees for the Perkiomen arboretum on what would have been his brother Harry’s 50th class reunion. Today, Bob has contributed a reception area in the new student center in honor of Harry, leaving behind his own Morgan Family Legacy in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. Bob’s decision to give back, as a thank you for the warmth and foundation Perkiomen provided to him all those years ago, will impact many for years to come. The Reception Area will be a bright, inviting space to welcome visitors to the student center and introduce our vibrant community. In the spirit of the late Marian J. Stefano, longtime hostess of Perkiomen School, our community members will graciously offer warm smiles and engage visitors in the heart of our campus.