Lesa B. Morrison Dec. 14, 1962 - Dec. 8, 2016 Scholar, World Traveler Knew'her Purpose'

By Goldstein, Andrew | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), December 27, 2016 | Go to article overview

Lesa B. Morrison Dec. 14, 1962 - Dec. 8, 2016 Scholar, World Traveler Knew'her Purpose'


Goldstein, Andrew, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


When BeeJee and Perry Morrison visited their daughter in Honduras while she was serving in the Peace Corps, she introduced them to the local Garifuna women whom she was helping to develop small businesses.

"She was simultaneously talking to them and translating what they were saying to us," Mrs. Morrison said. "I thought 'This was my child, really?' "

Translating a few conversations would have been nothing to Lesa B. Morrison. A worldwide traveler and scholar, the Pittsburgh native spent years studying various cultures as a profession and interest.

In late November, while researching the Luo people in Kenya, Ms. Morrison was bitten by a spider and died about a week later after developing an infection, according to her family. She was found Dec. 8 at her residence in Nairobi. She was 53.

Ms. Morrison grew up in Squirrel Hill and graduated from Winchester Thurston School in 1980. She earned an economics degree and an MBA from the University of Chicago. But soon after earning her MBA, she turned away from the business world.

"When she came out of business school, she was so annoyed with all the people looking for jobs that paid the most . she went totally in the opposite direction," said BeeJee Morrison of Shadyside.

Instead of going into business, Ms. Morrison joined the Peace Corps. She asked to be placed in a French-speaking country because she had studied French in school, but was assigned to Honduras and had to learn Spanish.

From 1986 to 1989, Ms. Morrison helped the Garifuna women in Corozal, Honduras, develop a cassava bread-making factory where they could work.

"She wanted to help people set up small businesses, she wanted to empower people," said her sister, Abby Morrison of Shadyside. "She wanted to use her skills to help people and help better their situations."

She later parlayed her work in Honduras into a job at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Morrison earned a master's degree and a doctorate from Duke University in political science, specializing in African studies and ethnic conflict.

"She understood her purpose for being here," said Andre Robinson, a political science professor at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, who met Ms. Morrison at Duke and became her friend. "Her deepest desire was to be a constructive force in the world, and so that's why she devoted herself and her work to conflict resolution. …

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