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Gabriella E. Morris

Foundation chief executive Gabriella E. Morris was born on March 26, 1956 in Houston, Texas to Elise LeNoir Morris and John E. Morris. After graduating from high school, Morris received her A.B. degree in architecture and urban planning, and a certificate in African American studies, from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey in 1978. She later earned her J.D. degree from the University of Texas Law School in Austin, Texas. Morris has also received certifications from Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program in corporate social responsibility, and from Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation.

Morris was hired as real estate council for The Southland Corporation in Dallas, Texas. She then became associate counsel of the Houston-based law firm of Baker and Botts in its securities, real estate and oil and gas practices. In 1985, she was hired by Prudential Financial as a regional counsel and associate general counsel for the company’s real estate operations. Morris then became president of the Prudential Foundation in 1994, and also served as vice president of community resources. In that position, Morris helped develop a number of community programs focused on education, including the Prudential Young Entrepreneurs Program, founded in 1999. She also helped form the New Jersey Statewide Education Summit, which aided the development of new education standards for the City of Newark and was influential in creating one of the first charter school lending programs in the nation. After over twenty years of service, Morris left Prudential in order to form her own consulting firm, Connective Advisors LLC. In 2014, she was named as the senior vice president of the UNICEF Bridge Fund.

In addition to her professional career, Morris has been involved in her community through membership in many organizations. She was a founding member of United States Artists, the Brick City Development Corporation, and the Newark Trust for Education. Morris also served as a board member for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Harlem School of the Arts, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Women’s Association, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Gabriella E. Morris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 27, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.074

Sex

Female

Interview Date

03/27/2017

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Schools

Clinton Park Elementary School

Incarnate Word Academy

Fidelity Elementary School

Princeton University

University of Texas at Austin

First Name

Gabriella

Birth City, State, Country

Houston

HM ID

MOR18

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Fake It Till You Make It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/26/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lamb Chops

Short Description

Foundation chief executive Gabriella E. Morris (1956 - ) worked for twenty-seven years in senior legal, philanthropic and community relations positions at Prudential Financial.

Employment

US Fund for UNICEF

Connective Advisors

Prudential Financial

The Southland Corporation

Baker & Botts

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gabriella E. Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gabriella E. Morris lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her mother's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her father's aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gabriella E. Morris describes how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her adoption

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Clinton Park neighborhood of Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her early interests and personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers her mother's role on 'Queen for A Day'

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers her elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers being mistaken for Latina in Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Incarnate Word Academy in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls her experiences of discrimination at the Incarnate Word Academy

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls her decision to attend Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls her aspiration to become a lawyer

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her decision to study architecture

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers her arrival at Princeton University

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls the senior awards ceremony at the Incarnate Word Academy

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her social life at Princeton University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her architectural education

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers her professors at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers national events fromn her time at Princeton University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her skin color privilege

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls the notable alumni and faculty of the University of Texas Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers working at Baker Botts LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her casework at Baker Botts LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers meeting her first husband

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls her start at Prudential Financial, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers the birth of her first child

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers the financial downturn of the late 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls meeting President George W. Bush

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gabriella E. Morris remembers becoming president of the Prudential Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the Prudential Foundation's philanthropic strategy

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the Prudential Foundation's impact in the community of Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gabriella E. Morris reflects upon her career at the Prudential Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the Prudential Foundation's volunteer programs

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the Prudential Young Entrepreneur Program

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the United States Artists initiative

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Brick City Development Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls marrying her second husband

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her duties as president of the Prudential Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Newark Trust for Education

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gabriella E. Morris recalls founding Connective Advisors LLC

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Harlem School of the Arts in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the UNICEF Bridge Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her involvement in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gabriella E. Morris describes the Stanford University Center for Social Innovation

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Gabriella E. Morris reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Gabriella E. Morris reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Gabriella E. Morris describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Gabriella E. Morris talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Gabriella E. Morris describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gabriella E. Morris narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
Gabriella E. Morris recalls her experiences of discrimination at the Incarnate Word Academy
Gabriella E. Morris remembers working at Baker Botts LLP
Transcript
But I started my hapless career there with my mother [Elise LeNoir Morris] coming to our first open house, which was my first sh- first semester of freshman year [at Incarnate Word Academy, Houston, Texas]. And then when you walk in, it's the list of everyone on the honor roll, and she said, "Your name is not up there." And we went around and we collected all of my cards and of course I should've been on the honor roll, I had all A's. So she goes to the principal, "My daughter's name is not here, why?" "Oh yeah that's a mistake, we'll correct it," she said, "No, you'll correct it now. Today is the day when everyone sees who's on the honor roll. You will put her name there now." And of course I'm sort of semi-embarrassed, but I witnessed lot of this stuff from my mother with her own way of holding her righteous indignation through all kinds (laughter) of scenarios. That's what it takes to make that difference. And that was very, that was very important to me, because it was really about standing up for what even- everyone else is entitled to. You know that makes a diff- even that small little thing. So ah, that's how they got to know my mom (laughter), I'm sure they didn't forget it, she was a piece of work, so.$$Well, she did the right thing.$$Yeah so you know it was--you know as, as dedicated as the nuns were to teaching girls, they didn't have a vision for women. And it was you know funny tracks, you know almost like homemaker, secretary, they didn't have a vision that they're train- they're training girls for the world. I think even today I'm not sure how much, how equipped they are to say women can do anything they want. And I, I say that because you know counselors are supposed to say well you know you should go to school here. Or here's some good, they never did any of that for me. And when I got a notice from Princeton [Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey], I went there and I said aren't they supposed to tell you? Oh yeah they said you're a likely, as if (makes sound) why would you wanna do that? So that always bothered me you know that they did not, they sort of had in their mind limitations for girls, for black girls, brown girls.$$You think that, there's a difference in the limitations they had for, they had limitations for all girls. But then for black and brown girls--$$Absolutely.$$--special limitations.$$Absolutely my mother to this day said they, well not to this day but she would say they, they really cheated me out of the valedictory, I was salutatorian. Because my number had all zeroes behind it, no well you can't average out four years and get all zeroes, you know to the decimal point. And that it was important to them that I not be the valedictorian, so you know once again it's religious. It's you know it's, it's important to challenge, but it's just important to keep plowing ahead as well.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$So you're, you're interning with Baker and Botts [Baker Botts LLP, Houston, Texas] and do, do they offer you a job while you're in law school [University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Austin, Texas]?$$Yeah they offered me a job after my second summer with them, and it was interesting, they had more Princeton [Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey] alums there. They're very different field, more you know very eastern in their approach to things and I'd say Vinson and Elkins [Vinson and Elkins LLP, Houston, Texas] at the time was a little, little more homegrown. And they're both great firms but it was sort of like it was the last experience I had. I had both of those experiences, there were only, each firm had one black male attorney, who really was the groundbreaker. Sherman Stimley at, at Vinson Elkins unfortunately passed very, very young, but he was a terrific guy who was a mentor. He wanted, he was really responsible for gathering young people even those still in high school. Those interested in being lawyers, those in college, those in law school, just really trying to direct them to work in the big firms, he was a great guy. And then at Baker and Botts, [HistoryMaker] Rufus Cormier who recently retired was the only black attorney partner at, at Baker and Botts, he was a terrific guy as well, little different manner. But sort of austerely and calmly, confident great leader just a, a quiet man more of a quiet, quiet leader. So I worked there for three years and, and basically the system, these are basically guys that didn't wanna hire women, I gotta tell you in that day. And I only thing I think that really moved them was that they were having daughters who also wanted to be lawyers. You see they have these, these movements actually just really helped propel us forward. And they had to ask themselves why can't women work here, so there weren't that many women and they were very few, I think I was the second black person to work at the firm, so. But not a lot of mentorship overall in the firm, so I decided I should go to a corporate, a corporate law practice after that.