Volunteer of the Year: Sue Ellen Morris

Volunteer: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service

Discovery Park is pleased to name Sue Ellen Morris as the 2020 Volunteer of the Year. Volunteers are important to Discovery Park. They enhance our ability to implement our mission by offering their knowledge and expertise in a variety of ways.

When Sue Ellen started volunteering in early 2020 at Discovery Park, she soon realized one of her favorite things was sharing information about the park with first-time guests. “I really enjoy meeting the people that visit from around the world,” said Sue Ellen. “I like hearing their stories and watching the children’s reactions when they walk through the doors and see the giant cave bear or the dinosaur skeletons. Some are frightened by the bear and others want to hurry to see if it’s real.”

“Of course, 2020 was a tough year for all of us,” said Scott Williams, Discovery Park president and CEO. “Rounding the corner and seeing Sue Ellen sitting there with her mask on, ready to welcome guests, always made me feel a little happier.”

Sue Ellen received an etched serving board handmade by Discovery Park volunteer John. R. Hall for her dedication to Discovery Park of America.

Get to Know the 2020 Volunteer of the Year

Born in Hickman County, Ky., to Raymond and Estelle Morris, Sue Ellen grew up on the family farm with her two sisters, Gina Lou and Ruth Ann. She was always helping out on the farm, driving tractors and planting soybean, corn and wheat. Growing up, she was also an avid reader and volunteered at the library in Clinton, Ky. She loved reading books about places around the world that she never dreamed a little girl from a small town in Kentucky would visit. Little did she know what was to come.

She attended Murray State University and received her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in history. Sue Ellen then decided to pursue law school and attended the University of Tulsa. After she graduated with her law degree, she realized that the big city life and the cold were not for her. She missed her family, the warmer weather and the greenery of her hometown. So, she packed everything up and headed back home to begin her career as a lawyer at Roberts, Bugg and Morris in Clinton, Ky.

Once her career took off as a partner in the law firm, she remembered the books she read as a little girl about all the exotic places around the world she wished she could visit. Sue Ellen convinced her sister, Ruth Ann, to be her travel partner and they started exploring the amazing places she had only read and dreamed about visiting. She and her sister visited places all around Europe, including Ireland, Great Britain and Italy. Their furthest adventure to date has been to New Zealand. They have also met friends that they now travel with on their adventures.

“She loved reading books on places around the world that she never dreamed a little girl from a small town in Kentucky would visit. Little did she know what was to come.”

“My favorite place that I have visited is Rome,” said Sue Ellen. “The city, the history, the food and the people make it one of the most interesting and culturally rich places to visit. We have found the best gelato place in Rome and have to visit it every time we are there.”

Sue Ellen and her sister had to put their next adventures on hold when COVID-19 hit. “We are big cruisers and had two cancelled, one in 2020 and one in 2021, but we have a Celebrity Cruise planned later this year that starts in Venice and ends in Rome. We are really hoping we get to experience this trip.”

Since international travel is paused for now, we asked Sue Ellen where her favorite place to visit is in the United States. “I really like to travel to the Smoky Mountains. We rent a cabin, take hikes and just relax.” She already has a condo booked in April to hunt for spring wildflowers in Sevierville with her travelling buddies.

“I like hearing their stories and seeing the children’s reactions when they walk through the doors and see the giant cave bear or the dinosaur skeletons. Some are frightened by the bear and others want to hurry and touch it to see if it’s real.”

She still practices law part-time, but within the next couple of years, she wants to have something more she can do to give back to the community once she completely retires. This volunteer program fits in well with her plans. Plus, Sue Ellen enjoys taking photos of the guests and giving them the information they need to enhance their experience at Discovery Park.

When asked if she recommends others to volunteer at the park, she said, “Yes! This is a great opportunity for retired educators or for anyone who is passionate about sharing knowledge with others.” She also shared her favorite part of the park. “I really enjoy the grounds, and I like to see the transformation of the outdoor foliage that occurs as the seasons change. The grounds staff does an awesome job. I also love the old cars and there are a couple I would love to take home.”

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the volunteer program at Discovery Park, please email Polly Brasher at pbrasher@discoveryparkofamerica.com for more information.