Morris Animal Foundation Trustee Dies

January 23, 2007 -- Honored veterinarian, researcher and trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation Mark L. Morris Jr., DVM, Ph.D., died January 14.
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January 23, 2007 -- Honored veterinarian, researcher and trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation Mark L. Morris Jr., DVM, Ph.D., died January 14.

January 23, 2007 -- Mark L. Morris Jr., DVM, Ph.D., pioneer researcher, educator, mentor and worldwide authority on animal nutrition, died January 14, at his home in Topeka, Kan., at the age of 72.

Dr. Morris served as trustee and vice-president of scientific activities for the Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), which was founded by his parents, Mark and Louise Morris, in 1948 to improve the health and well-being of companion animals and wildlife. Through his guidance, MAF has become the world's largest, non-governmental, non-profit organization funding humane animal health studies with more than 1,300 studies funded since its founding.

"Dr. Morris was committed to ensuring that his father's vision of a foundation to improve the health and well-being of animals would carry on into perpetuity," said Patricia N. Olson, D.V.M., Ph.D., Morris Animal Foundation president/CEO. "We are grateful for Dr. Morris's hard work in growing the foundation and feel privileged to have worked with such a fine veterinarian and animal lover."

Dr. Morris dedicated his life's work to improving the lives of animals through nutrition. After receiving a DVM from Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1958 and a Ph.D. in veterinary pathology and nutrition from the University of Wisconsin in 1963, he returned to Topeka, Kan., to enter the family business, Mark Morris Associates (MMA).

"His passion for the lives of all animals changed veterinary nutrition to what it is today. He worked with great energy and drive, and when he saw a need, he developed a solution. The entire veterinary community has lost a good friend, valuable contributor and mentor," said Lon Lewis, DVM, Ph.D., retired veterinary nutritionist and colleague.

In the beginning, Dr. Morris continued the work of his father, Mark L. Morris Sr., DVM. Considered the founder of veterinary clinical nutrition, Dr. Morris Sr. had proven that an animal's disease could be treated through nutrition. This revolutionary idea led him to formulate the first therapeutic diets for dogs and cats, called Prescription Diet® pet foods, and it also created a new discipline of veterinary medicine. Dr. Morris Jr. went on to greatly expand this line of diets, as well as to develop the Science Diet® line of products, which were the first premium pet foods for healthy dogs and cats. Additionally, he changed the way animals in zoological collections were fed by pioneering the ZuPreem® line of diets, the first nutritionally complete diets for these extraordinary animals.

"My grandfather was a visionary in clinical nutrition, but it was my father, Mark Morris Jr., who turned my grandfather's vision into reality, and then went on to realize his own vision by greatly expanding the body of knowledge about animal nutrition and providing innovative, quality diets for the health of all animals worldwide," said David R. Morris, president of Premium Nutritional Products, Inc., that now owns the ZuPreem line of diets for exotic pets and zoo animals.

Over his lifetime, Dr. Mark Morris Jr. researched and developed more than 150 products, most of which are still on the market today. MMA provided innovative product research and development, and Hill's provided the production, sales, marketing and distribution. The partnership was a profitable one, propelling the growth of Hill's Pet Nutrition, now owned by Colgate Palmolive Company to one of the largest pet food manufacturers in the world. Dr. Morris retired in 1988 following the sale of MMA to Colgate Palmolive Company.

Dr. Morris published widely and most notably is an original co-author of Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, the standard textbook now translated into five languages and used to educate veterinarians throughout the world. Additionally, he taught an entire generation of veterinarians about animal nutrition by lecturing at U.S. and foreign colleges of veterinary medicine, as well as speaking at more than 200 veterinary meetings around the world.

Dr. Morris was a founding member and on the board of regents of American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Other professional scientific organizations include the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Veterinary Nutritionists.

Following his retirement, Dr. Morris was active in many philanthropic organizations, primarily by helping to manage their investments. His commitment to education and other civic activities spanned more than four decades.

He leaves his wife of nearly 50 years, Bette M. Morris; Ph.D., two sons, one daughter and five grandchildren.

Donations in memory of Dr. Mark Morris may be made to:

  • Morris Animal Foundation, 45 Inverness Drive East, Englewood, CO 80112
  • First United Methodist Church, 600 SW Topeka Blvd., Topeka, KS 66603
  • Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute, Development Office, MS 3012, KU Endowment Assoc., 3901 Rainbow Blvd., Kansas City, KS 66160