Each year, one high school teacher from every state receives the most prestigious award a civics educator can win – a grant from the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation to study the U.S. Constitution in Washington, D.C. Regent University professor Dr. Jeffry Morrison is responsible for helping instruct the recipients, and he delights in sharing his constitutional knowledge with these leading teachers.
“It’s been a privilege, as a Robertson School of Government (RSG) professor, to have a job that puts me in Washington, D.C., in the federal government in an educational role,” said Morrison, who serves as the James Madison Foundation’s academic director. “It’s very rewarding. It dovetails very nicely with the mission of the university and RSG where we are all about American Constitutional principles like limited government and separation of powers.”
Morrison spends one month each summer at his alma mater, Georgetown University, where he leads a class titled “Foundations of American Constitutionalism” for the top 50 high school civics teachers. The graduate-level class contextualizes legal, political and constitutional history by exposing students to Monticello, Mount Vernon and James Madison’s home, Montpelier.
“I see a really interesting slice of America every summer,” said Morrison. “I meet people from all 50 states from rural to urban settings, people from elite and smaller schools. They have a passion for teaching.”
Congress set aside $20 million in 1987 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution and provide annual grants for recipients to study the document. Program participants are selected based on their applications and merits. The grant money helps fund their advanced degrees in political science or history.
“Part of the reward for me is seeing these 1,400 former and current James Madison Fellows teaching in each of the 50 states,” said Morrison. “They have taught 1 million Americans to date. We are hopeful that our work makes a difference. When we’re talking about numbers like that, there is reason to be hopeful.”
The James Madison Foundation, which receives federal and private funding, seeks to preserve knowledge of America’s founding document by educating rising leaders. Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the Foundation is led by a bipartisan board of congressmen, judges and scholars.
Morrison started teaching with the Foundation in 1992. He became academic director in 2013 and says he is grateful for the encouragement and support he has received from Regent. His research focuses on religion and the Constitution, and he is being featured in a Foundation video series, voicing his perspective on this topic.