Story by Shannon Dale
Karen Morris-Fine led a successful career as a toxicologist for major corporations, including Coca Cola, Syracuse Research Corporation and the Boeing Company. But before she became a prominent figure in her field — one of few women who have achieved such heights in leadership roles — she was a young girl growing up on a farm in Eastern Colorado, attending a small rural school and dreaming of one day attending Colorado State University.
Through her childhood experiences, Morris-Fine learned where food came from and was eager to learn more about how it impacts the body. Coming from a rural community, she had the opportunity to experience CSU: As an active 4-H member at the local, county, and state-level, she always found it exciting when the kids had a chance to come to campus. Later, during her high school years, she attended the Junior Engineers and Scientists Summer Institute, where she fell in love with chemistry.
CSU ‘opportunity of a lifetime’
“Growing up, I knew it would be the opportunity of a lifetime to be admitted to CSU,” says Morris-Fine.
As one of only six in her rural school and a first-generation student, Morris-Fine pushed herself to succeed and was admitted to CSU, where she went on to receive three degrees in food science and nutrition: her bachelor’s in 1967, her master’s with a focus on meat science in 1970, and her Ph.D. in 1978.
She remains forever grateful for the opportunity to have attended CSU, for the scholarships and grants she received, being able to work on campus, and, most of all, for the phenomenal faculty who helped her along the way. And now she’s giving back.
“My education was a life-changing experience. It provided the foundation for my success, expanded the opportunities I would have, opened my mind to diverse perspectives, and unlocked the door for a lifetime of continuous learning and experiences,” says Morris-Fine.
Through the connections she made at CSU, Morris-Fine studied lipid metabolism with Dr. David Cramer, which led her to work at the Mayo Clinic while maintaining the study of cholesterol metabolism at CSU with Dr. Jacqueline DuPont.
Technical fellow at Boeing
Morris-Fine’s research made her a natural fit at Coca-Cola, where she worked in toxicology studies. Later, she joined the Boeing Company, where she held top leadership positions in Safety and Health and Risk Management. She was inducted into the highly selective Boeing Technical Fellowship Program, as an associate technical fellow in toxicology, for her contributions and leadership as a corporate toxicologist. Technical fellows represent less than 1.5 percent of the Boeing engineers and scientists, and only 1 percent of the fellows were women.
Now retired, Morris-Fine was working on solidifying her estate plans and wanted to reflect her deep appreciation and love for CSU. She met with Mike Pagliassotti, head of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Associate Director of Development Victoria Keller, and listened to the most pressing departmental needs.
“I was impressed and pleased that Karen was interested in helping the department, in particular, our early career faculty. Her thinking was directed at having an immediate and sustained impact in the area of nutrition science,” says Pagliassotti.
Planned gift establishes fund
In response, she established the Karen Morris-Fine Graduate Student and Early Career Faculty Success Fund, with the goal of providing support for graduate students and early career faculty participating in active nutrition science research programs within the FSHN department. The fund will support graduate student salaries, equipment, conference fees and travel.
“It is exciting to me that this fund can be used simultaneously to provide an extra boost to early career faculty members and their graduate students that will hopefully make a difference in the course of their careers,” explains Morris-Fine.
Her bequest will establish an endowment, which will ensure funding to her award for years to come.The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. For more information about how to support the department, visit https://advancing.colostate.edu/1873.