By Nicholette Carlson
Growing up in Indianapolis, Beth Morris had every intention of getting far away from her hometown after graduating from high school. Instead she stayed local and studied pharmacy at Butler University.
She was then offered a job at Eli Lilly and continues to reside in Indianapolis today. However her career at Eli Lilly helped to satisfy her desire to travel by sending her to multiple countries throughout Europe, Asia and South America.
Around 10 years of age, Morris was introduced to Lake Wawasee when her family rented a lake cottage. She was reintroduced by her husband, Doug, whose parents have had a house on the lake for the last 50 years. In 2006, they purchased the house next to his parents on Lake Wawasee. After taking early retirement, Morris felt a pull to spend more time on the lake in Syracuse.
During her 30 years at Eli Lilly, Morris was one of the first women to enter the manufacturing field. Beginning in a technical support role, she later took over the department and entered management. After becoming a project manager in new drug development she was able to combine her knowledge and background from working in the manufacturing field to lead teams of scientists to develop new drugs. She considers one of their greatest accomplishments working to develop a drug to treat schizophrenia.
Throughout her career Morris has been “fueled by taking on projects that can make a difference to people.” The desire to raise her teenagers, Andy and Abby, led to her decision to choose early retirement. In order to keep a hand in her work, Morris works part time as a traveling consultant.
As Morris began to feel the pull of the lake community, she decided she “wanted to start putting down roots.” She was asked to join the Wawasee Property Owners Association and, as a board member, she stated, “We all chip in and try to get things done.”
In 2013 she joined the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s Ecology Committee and now serves as its chair. This committee is responsible for collecting and analyzing data on all aspects of the watershed including water quality, invasive species management and wetlands health. The volunteers who work with Morris on the ecology committee have “an interest in science and a desire to use that pragmatically to help our community,” she described.
Their goal is to “develop and implement long-term plans for monitoring the watershed.” The committee’s work and partnerships, the most recent of which is with Dr. Jerry Sweeten, have led them to a Wawasee watershed ecological health study which will be the most intensive study ever done on the lake. As the chair of the ecology committee, Morris’ job is working to “harness the backgrounds and talents of the volunteers and best put to use those talents and passions.”
“I’ve always been taught the importance of giving back and have tried to do that throughout my life by doing things such as teaching adult Sunday school, mentoring people both inside and outside of the workplace and serving as an advocate at a local food pantry,” Morris explained. “As I approached retirement, the mantra coined by Bob Buford in his 1994 book ‘Half Time,’ rang true: ‘Learn, earn, return.’ The first part of our life we spend learning, the next phase of life is all about earning a living and the last phase of life is ‘returning’ or using our God-given talents to make a difference in our community and world around us.
“At this stage of life, I am blessed to be able to combine my love of the Wawasee area and Syracuse with my interest in science to make a difference today and for the generations yet to come.”