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Professor Jeffrey Morton a Lifelong Learning Society star
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By CARRIE CYNKAR
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Political science Professor Jeffrey Morton’s view on life changed when he was 15 years old. His brother surprised him with his most stimulating birthday present, a book by Ayn Rand called “Atlas Shrugged.”

“After reading the book, I never saw things the same way,” Morton said.

He says his economic, political and social views were deeply affected by the bestselling novel that won over more Americans than Russians because of its anti-Communist view. Ironically, Rand is from Russia. Yet, after studying American history in high school, she believed that America offered the best example of a free society.

Many years later, after the book’s influence and many hours of research, Morton explains American foreign policy to all ages at Florida Atlantic University.

The 6-foot-1 professor’s ordinary day consists of preparing and giving lectures, grading exams and serving on university committees. Along with his many tasks, he still finds time to conduct research for his various publications.

Throughout his career, he has written numerous books, book reviews, journal articles and research notes. But his love is teaching.

Morton says he chose his profession because he “sought the job security that can only come with a tenured professorship.”

While the benefits of personal security are helpful during this tough economic time, Morton is also rewarded by the great interest in his work.

The hazel-eyed professor knows that students of multiple generations are inspired by his words. According to Morton, his student feedback is “very strong.”

That assumption is proven by the numbers. His first Lifelong Learning Society class in 1995 had only 38 people. Today, he has more that 2,500 students in his Boca Raton and Jupiter classes combined.

“Registration for classes is the most accurate indicator of positive feedback,” he said.

Along with teaching the program’s classes, he also instructs three levels of college students. He catches their interest from the beginning by welcoming freshmen into the classroom.

“I love to introduce them to the complexities of the world,” he said.

He follows up by offering international law and economic education to upper level underclassmen and holds a graduate student seminar in international relations theory.

When he’s not busy with the typical college students, Morton uses his expertise to conquer the older crowd. He believes the baby-boomer generation can sometimes be a greater challenge and is his self-described “rapidly graying hair” is evidence of the work he puts in.

“By teaching in the FAU LLS program, I have the chance to do research on countries and topics that otherwise I would know little about,” he said. “The least favorite part is conducting all the research required to lecture to a knowledgeable audience for 105 minutes.”

Many of the society’s students are former doctors, professors, and business men and women, and are therefore well educated.

In his winter American foreign policy class, Morton lectures on a different country each week. He says he focuses on the background and policy of each nation, along with the country’s relations regarding the United States.

Great attention is paid to larger countries, such as China, Russia, and Israel. Yet, smaller and lesser-known countries, such as Bolivia and Rwanda, also are covered.

Donna Grubman has taken several classes with Morton and said he is one of her favorite teachers.

"He is very well organized and uses power presentations very effectively," Grubman said. "He keeps current and really stimulates thinking and discussion."

With an abundance of information discussed, Morton allows interaction between students by offering a 15-minute question-and-answer session following each lecture.

“With 1,400 students in my winter class, there are always more questions that time permits to answer,” he said.

Many may wonder how Morton has obtained such substantial knowledge about international politics. His influences have come from public and personal political figures in his life.

His role model is Henry Kissinger. He says he was influenced by his accomplishments as President Nixon’s national security advisor and secretary of state.

“He combined academics and policymaking very successfully,” Morton said.

He also admires former President Bill Clinton’s special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, because of his progress with Bosnia and U.S. relations. However, his most influential figure was his undergraduate foreign policy professor, Harry I. Chernotsky, perhaps a hands-on symbol foreshadowing his future as a political science professor.

Morton took his knowledge to the University of South Carolina, where he earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees, with a brief stop in between at Rutgers to obtain his master’s degree.

As a skilled professor, he has been honored with nine awards, including the Lifelong Learning Society Excellence in Teaching Award and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.

"He is a star professor," said Kami Barrett, assistant director of the Lifelong Learning Society in Jupiter.

In between his countless hours of research and instruction, he serves as the director of the Jack Miller Forum for Civics Education. According to the Jack Miller Forum website, the program’s aim is to teach the founding principles and history of America.

 

 
 

 
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