DES MOINES, Iowa — One step at a time, one piece of trash at a time. “It’s definitely a way to make sure the community sees you care about it and we also love to see how it brings people together,” said Drake University student Sydney Rottinghaus.
Cleaning up the Drake University campus and Drake neighborhood is more than spring cleaning these days. It has become an annual tribute called Paul Morrison Spruce-Up Day. Fellow student Marguerite Stoffel said, “It’s really inspiring just to see the pull Drake continues to have for students and alumni and friends of the university.”
Before his death in 2017 at the age of 100, Paul Morrison, a retired Drake University sports information director and volunteer sports historian, considered it a daily task to pick up trash on his walk to and from work. “On his way he would always pick up trash. It was just kind of his thing and he always carried an old tattered briefcase and stuck the trash in the briefcase,” said Morrison’s daughter Holly Dierks. She added, “His view was that no job is too small for anybody. Picking up trash is probably one of the most humble things you can do and yet he was never above that.”
That selfless attitude continues to grow. Since 2018, the school has partnered with the community and businesses to continue his spirit. Rottinghaus said, “Members from a local church, the neighborhood association is here, we have businesses involved. Habenero’s and Dough Co. have made contributions today. Just a great way to see the community bond together at a time when it is harder to get together.”
Current and former students, families and four-legged local celebrity Griff II dedicated their morning to the cause. Dierks said, “One of his favorite expressions was, ‘We are all in this together.'”
Affectionately known as “Mr. Drake,” Morrison attended thousands of basketball games, 700 football games and 80 Drake Relays. While his impact on the university’s athletics department is obvious, his attention to making the surrounding community better is an applause that echoes well beyond a stadium’s walls. “Paul didn’t do this for the fame or to be known, it was just something little he did to make the world a better place on his way to work,” said Stoffel.