Mitchell L. Morgan

American humorist Sidney Joseph Perelman apparently never met Temple Trustee Mitchell L. Morgan, for Perelman once described someone as having "the lazy insolence of a shoe salesman."

Morgan is founder of a real estate investment, development and management company -- Morgan Properties -- that has 500 employees, 17,000 apartment units and real estate worth more than $1 billion. Morgan started out as a shoe salesman; lazy insolence has never been one of his attributes.

"Selling shoes was how I paid for school," explained Morgan, who holds Temple degrees in accounting (1976) and law (1980). "I may have learned more about marketing from selling shoes than I did in my marketing classes!"

As an undergraduate, Morgan took classes between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m., spending his afternoons in a shoe store at Germantown and Lehigh avenues. After receiving his accounting degree, he enrolled in Law School night classes, not because he wanted to be a lawyer but because he thought a legal education would be helpful in a business career.

"The shoe store taught me a lot about buying, marketing, budgeting and other aspects of business," he said. "Law was an area I had no experience in."

While studying law at night, Morgan took a huge pay cut and left the shoe store for a $1.65-per-hour accounting job, just to get the two years of work experience necessary to become a certified public accountant. After finishing at the Law School, he worked briefly for an international accounting firm and then for a client in the apartment business, before striking out on his own in 1985.

"I had no idea things would turn out so well," Morgan said. "I just focused, kept my head down and put together an amazing company with remarkable people."

After earning his law degree in 1980, Morgan did not step on the Temple campus again until he returned in 2002 for his first meeting as a trustee. Now he is chairman of the facilities committee, applying his professional expertise to planned construction projects at Temple totaling $400 million. Those projects include moving the Tyler School of Art to Main Campus, building a new School of Medicine and expanding The Fox School of Business and Management.

"All of those projects will help take Temple to the next level," Morgan said. "For me, Temple was just a commuting school. Park, go to class, get out as quickly as possible. Now, Temple has a campus life; it has more of a university feel to it. And we're doing a much better job of reaching out to our alumni to re-establish relationships."

As for serving as a trustee, "It's a lot of work," Morgan said. "I have tremendous respect for my colleagues and their dedication to Temple. When people get involved with Temple, it's to help keep our mission going. Being involved here is like giving back to the community, because Temple provides opportunities that can transform lives. It did for me."

Although the shoe store helped a little bit, too.

-By Mark Eyerly

2004 Temple Times