Log in

Guiding Growth Podcast

Gilbert pioneer family's son learned much from parents

Posted 2/14/24

The podcast Guiding Growth: Conversations with Community Leaders from the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, event and meeting venue Modern Moments and the Gilbert Independent/yourvalley.net explores the …

You must be a member to read this story.

Join our family of readers for as little as $5 per month and support local, unbiased journalism.

Already have an account? Log in to continue.

Current print subscribers can create a free account by clicking here

Otherwise, follow the link below to join.

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe. The five stories do not include our exclusive content written by our journalists.

For $6.99, less than 20 cents a day, digital subscribers will receive unlimited access to YourValley.net, including exclusive content from our newsroom and access to our Daily Independent e-edition.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor
Guiding Growth Podcast

Gilbert pioneer family's son learned much from parents


The podcast Guiding Growth: Conversations with Community Leaders from the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, event and meeting venue Modern Moments and the Gilbert Independent/yourvalley.net explores the human journey of leaders. There are stories of humility, triumph, roadblocks, and lessons learned. This partial transcript of the most recent podcast with Howard Morrison has been edited for brevity and clarity.  

A native of Gilbert — who was born to a native of Gilbert — Howard Morrison has both roots and recognition in the town as the third son of Marvin and June Morrison. Alongside his siblings and cousins, he has actively engaged in the development of the master planned community known as Morrison Ranch. With a Masters in Theology and a Doctorate in Ministry, he considers his Christian faith to be the most formative aspect of his life, and his service to community is testament to his priorities. He has served on many advisory councils and boards, including Gilbert Talks, East Valley Partnership, Dignity Health, and Gilbert Leadership - he is a graduate of Class 3. But he considers being a husband and father of three the greatest privilege of his life. 

Talk about your childhood where you grew up in. My mom still lives in the home that she grew up in since she was 7. It's three quarters of a mile west of Gilbert and Elliott in the north side of the road within the Neely Ranch compound. My mom's a Neely and so I was born right there with two older brothers. 

Richard's 11 years older, Scott's four years older and I went through the Gilbert school system, which at that time was one elementary, one junior high, one high school. So all was on the farm, church, school and athletics, that was growing up.  

High school life like then, what was that like? Well, that was Gilbert High School, which is now Mesquite Junior High. And of course, there's a big swimming pool in the parking lot now, which didn't exist, and a number of the buildings didn't exist. One of the interesting times in my life, our youngest daughter went there for junior high and went in for getting to get to meet the teacher night and walked into what was my chemistry lab. It wasn't going to be her chemistry lab as a sophomore. Everything was the same. The bookshelves were the same. The smell in the lab was the same. It appeared the countertops were the same. It was unbelievable. That was quite an experience to walk into that situation.  

High school years, that's where my spiritual transformation occurred was during those years. I was a late bloomer in all things except relating to adults. I did really well, relating to adults, didn't do great with my peers — OK, just not great. And so I had a lot of growing up to do physically, probably emotionally. But athletics was a big thing that helped me overcome me. And so I was football, basketball and track, not because I was good, but because I could. Gilbert was small enough, you could. I was in the band and in FFA (Future Farmers of America) and so I was in high school at the school from 7:30 at the latest for first period band or A period, whatever it was called then, till about 6 or 6:30. That was my high school life.  

Your parents (Marvin and June Morrison) have made such a mark on this community as you were growing up, observing them doing the work that they were doing in the community, what did that look like for you? And what do you remember as their legacy outside of your family? It was normal because it is the environment I grew up in. So I didn't have the self-awareness to say, ‘Oh my gosh, my parents are involved in so many things in the community.’ I didn't say that probably till I was in college. Maybe I did in high school.  

One of the markers that I remember very significantly, because my dad was involved in all kinds of boards and commissions all across the state and outside the state, is when I was in eighth grade, he ran for another term for school board. He wound up serving 13 years. At eighth grade, he decided to run for school board for four years one more time so he could hand me my diploma.  

My dad lived in the community, and my mom in different ways. If he wasn't on the farm and he wasn't home eating or sleeping, he was in this community somewhere doing something. And of course, as I mentioned, that was normal for our family. And so it comes pretty natural for me as well.  

So, you go from Gilbert High school to college. Where'd you go? Well, I kind of like to tease (that) it took three colleges to graduate me. I went to University of Arizona because that's where the agriculture college was. And I just had presumed I would major in agriculture and do something in agriculture. When I finished, after my first year, I went to Mesa Community College because I was nominated from Arizona to run for national FFA office. And that took some manipulation during the fall as far as schedules and completing assignments and particularly toward the end of the semester with finals because the convention fell in November, right when you're trying to finish stuff up. And so I went to MCC to make that a little easier on me.  

I was out of college for a year then because I was elected as an officer, and then came back and it was sort of discombobulated. Where's my North Star at this point? So I went to ASU for a semester so I would be closer to my family because I had been gone so much out of the year. Then I went back to U of A and finished up my junior and senior year.  

What happens next? I was challenged by some people to consider pastoral ministry. And I had a kind of a proclivity toward the scriptures, didn't have a lot of church experience as far as being involved in what would that look like. And so the short story is I wound up going to Dallas Seminary and got a master's in theology at the time. That obviously redirected many things in my life.  

That seems like it would be an area you probably made some connections. Yes. The game-changer for me relationally was meeting my wife Jenna, and she has patiently helped to be more of a relational person and warm person to the degree that that exists, but certainly being involved with church, church community, church families and those responsibilities, being looked to for leadership, growing in leadership. 

One of the things I learned in that environment (at Dallas Seminary) was God uses all kinds of people in all kinds of places for all kinds of intents and purposes. So my transition out of being paid for by a church to being in the workplace and in the marketplace was seamless. It's usually not, but it was for me because I had read a book and I'd met the author. He was just a couple years older than I was. And it was titled “Your Work Matters To God.” And that impacted how I viewed what I did at Morrison Ranch and what I do today. So I'm not involved in church ministry in the sense of being paid for it or have a title or anything like that. It's infused in my daily life. And that started back then.  

One of the comments you shared with us, which I found to be really important, is the saying, ‘Be the same person in public and in private.’ And I'm curious why that's important to you and what it means. The first thing that comes to mind is my dad. He was the same person in private as he was in public. And that was an unbelievable model to be able to be exposed to, to be loved by. He rarely sat us down for a lesson. He just lived his life.  

Dad was generous, and often people know about the public things. They have no idea of the hundreds of private things that he did. Same person, right? The other reason why that's really important to me is when you learn about leadership and you practice leadership and you say I want to be a leader, you will bump into the subject of character. Character shows whether you want it to or not. It will be exposed, and a good leader is going to have good character. Well, I wanted to be a good leader. I wanted that to be true about me. So that's integral to this discussion about inside and outside.  

I know Texas is important to you too. Where do you find the balance? Because I know you, Gilbert is your heart. You spend a lot of time in Texas. Talk a little bit about what that looks like for you. My wife's family is in Texas. I married a Texan in Dallas and while I was going through school as she was teaching as well. And so her family is there. My family's here. I get to split the time. I spend more nights there with my head on the pillow than I do here in Gilbert. But it's regular for me to be here and still have our home here.  

Let's talk about the future now. Where's the horizon look like for you? What do you got going on next? My sense is that Morrison Ranch has anywhere from three to seven years to go as commercial development lags. It could take just as long if not longer to see from point A to point Z in its process. It's also an opportunity for us to stay involved with some of the components of commercial development, not necessarily as owners, but maybe a joint venture partner and have a voice and influence or maybe owning a business.  

What I do most of my time when I'm not working on Morrison Ranch is mentor young men. So I spend time one on one most of the time. There's no agenda. It's just logging time with them. In that sense, this isn't intended to sound boring, but (I will be doing) more of the same because I'm really doing what I like to do, and that's important.