The presence of the entrepreneurial spirit in the Pittsburgh region has dimmed with the June 6 passing of Ron Morris, a life-long entrepreneur, founding director of Duquesne’s Entrepreneurial Studies Program and a business talk radio host.
“Sometimes people listen to you and they succeed,” said Morris in a 2011 interview when he received the first ever Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award for western Pennsylvania. “That is just as important as me succeeding. I don’t know how you get a better reward unless you’re saving lives or discovering cures for diseases; it’s very exciting.”
Morris, who grew up in Beechview, started a door-to-door egg sales route at age 10. He developed a dozen startups, including Information and Systems Research Inc., a software company that made him a multi-millionaire before the age of 30.
Morris persisted through some lean years before helping to grow Mastech (now IGate Corp., a publicly traded firm with a $2 billion market cap) and Rapidigm, a software services company with revenues that topped $400 million. He then went on to build and sell JD Warren Inc., which helped insurance companies recover third-party deductibles, to a NYSE-listed company.
With this experience, Morris moved into his final career of “knowledge philanthropy,” which placed him on airwaves, in the boardroom and in the classroom.
“Ron was willing to share with our students the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial life, encouraging hundreds of them to forge their own paths in the marketplace,” said Dean Alan Miciak of Duquesne’s School of Business. “Besides serving as the inaugural director of the Entrepreneurial Studies Program, he designed six courses and enjoyed teaching many of them himself. His business acumen and contagious enthusiasm will be missed.”
Morris offered advice through his radio program, The American Entrepreneur, with over 100,000 listeners nationwide. He served on seven corporate and nonprofit boards, including the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which shares strategies with kids from low-income areas, and was vice chairman of the board of the Allegheny Institute, a conservative think-tank headquartered in Pittsburgh.
Despite the thrills and risks of business, Morris’ No. 1 priority was always his family. “I married my wife, Karen, when I was 50, then had my son, Jaxon, and my daughter, Lexi. I’ve started a dozen companies, some of them very successful, but if you think there is anything harder or more rewarding than raising a family, there isn’t. They have been my ultimate startup.”
The American Entrepreneur has set up a 24/7 remembrance line at 412. 249.8662 to share stories, thoughts or well wishes with the Morris family. Some messages will be aired on a special memorial show on Saturday, June 9.