Morgan has fond memories of attending Buffalo State College, earning a bachelor of science in graphic design.
Along the way, he remembers pushing the limits of the norm, taking five art studio classes in one semester, even though his faculty advisor cautioned him that it would not be an easy lift. Still, he aced the ceramics glaze chemistry exam, yet had to earn the balance of a passing grade on the strength of his hand-sculpted clay—never quite mastering the throwing wheel.
“Where there is a will, there’s an A,” he said.
A favorite aunt—who taught grade school for 40 years after graduating from what was then known as Buffalo State Teachers College—was a major role model for Morgan.
While still in grade school, Morgan became fascinated by boisterous exchanges in Italian at Sunday family dinners of homemade pasta.
He asked his aunt: Would she give him Italian language lessons?
Replying with a wink and a smile, she handed him a new legal pad for use at their kitchen table lessons.
Although he never attained fluency in Italian, Morgan was able to take four years of Spanish at Lackawanna High School and traveled to Spain with the Spanish Club at the age of 15. Hoping to raise funds for the trip, Morgan hawked $1 chocolate bars outside the local Marine Midland Bank as people emerged freshly flush with cash each Friday payday.
A career in design
After graduating from college in 1979, Morgan worked as a freelance graphic designer, eventually producing art exhibition catalogs for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, the University of New Mexico Press and the University at Buffalo (UB) Art Gallery.
Many of these catalog layouts were hand-built on his simple wooden drafting table—using an electric, hand-held hot wax roller to add a thin adhesive layer to hold strips of text to layout boards. Personal computers were yet to be introduced, until the mid-1980s.
In 1983, just before coming to Daemen, Mike worked on “The Natural”—a major studio production filmed in Buffalo, as an assistant to the production designer.
Mike recalls attending a location meeting of a handful of people, including the film’s director Barry Levinson, and actor Robert Redford, in a small decrepit room in the abandoned Richardson Olmsted Complex, a former psychiatric hospital. In the film, the site was to be used as a maternity hospital. Morgan recalls roaming the vast, empty corridors of the historic structure and its horror movie-worthy basement for period props.
When Mike joined Daemen in 1984, the Publications Office consisted of himself and a commercial drafting table—along with shared access to a typist who worked on an elaborate IBM Typewriter, producing letters and documents for faculty and administration.
Over time, the publications office added two graphic designers and evolved alongside personal computing. The staff learned on the job as new technology—hardware and software—were introduced.
Morgan places high value on his association with Daemen and the opportunity to witness the evolution and growth of the college.