by Geoff Larcom, Published September 08, 2011
Michael G. Morris, chairman and CEO of Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP), has been awarded the Edison Electric Institute's Distinguished Leadership Award by his industry peers for his 23 years of exemplary service as an electric utility chief executive.
"We take great pleasure in giving this award to Mike Morris, whose contributions to the industry have been nothing short of remarkable," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "His accomplishments throughout his career as a utility executive have left an indelible imprint on the sector, and his dedication to his shareholders and customers has never wavered."
The award, established to recognize outstanding individual achievement, was presented during EEI's fall Board of Directors meeting. Morris, an Eastern Michigan University regent and a two-time graduate of EMU, announced his retirement as AEP's CEO in November. He is only the third executive to receive the award.
Noting that running one of the nation's largest electric companies itself is an enormous undertaking - AEP serves about 5.3 million customers in 11 states and owns the country's largest transmission system - Kuhn highlighted Morris's contributions reaching far beyond the company's service territory.
"Mike deftly served as EEI chairman from 2005-2006, a period that coincided with enactment of the sweeping Energy Policy Act of 2005. Yet perhaps his greatest contribution to our sector stems directly from Mike's solid temperament. He'll always tell you what he thinks, and he isn't one to mince words. But he is equally adept at seeking out common ground on difficult issues in a manner that keeps our industry together when it counts the most."
John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, also past chairman of EEI and the first-ever recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award, said: "For 15 years, in two different companies, in more than a dozen states with very different agendas, Mike Morris has been an indefatigable spokesman - for his company and for our industry. He has honored our industry and richly deserves our highest recognition."
David M. Ratcliffe, former chairman, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Company, past EEI chairman and second recipient of this award, said the following about his former colleague: "Mike has been a great friend and mentor and is one of this industry's truly outstanding leaders. Always knowledgeable and ready to engage, his passion and enthusiasm for this industry make him one of our most credible spokespersons. We are fortunate to have had his wisdom and leadership over many years and we are better for it. Thank you, Mike."
Morris joined AEP as chairman, president and chief executive officer Jan. 1, 2004. During his leadership of AEP, Morris has refocused the company on its domestic utility business and championed development of new technologies to reduce emissions from coal-fueled power generation, including operating the world's first integrated carbon capture and sequestration project at a working coal-fueled power plant. Additionally, Morris has worked to advance development of an interstate, high-voltage transmission system in the United States to enhance grid reliability and efficiently transport bulk power.
Before joining AEP, Morris was chairman, president and CEO of Northeast Utilities System from 1997 to 2003, where he led the company during its sale of the Millstone Station nuclear plant, a merger with Yankee Energy System Inc., and the acquisition of Connecticut Valley Electric Co.
Morris also was president and CEO of Consumers Energy, principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, and president of CMS Marketing, Services and Trading. He also was president of Colorado Interstate Gas Co. and executive vice president of marketing, transportation and gas supply for ANR Pipeline Co., both subsidiaries of El Paso Energy. Additionally, Morris was the founder and president of ANR Gathering Co., one of the first gas marketing companies in the United States.
He was recently reappointed to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents and is a trustee of the MSU College of Law.
Born in Fremont, Ohio, Morris graduated from Eastern Michigan University with both bachelors and masters degrees in biology. He served on the Board of Regents at Eastern Michigan University from 1997-2004. In 1995, he received the university's Distinguished Alumnus Award. During his graduate years, he was commander of the ROTC Brigade. After he graduated in 1973, he worked in the environmental department of Commonwealth Associates, where he prepared environmental impact statements for electrical utility transmission lines, natural gas and oil pipelines, and power plants.
Morris received a law degree, cum laude, from the Detroit College of Law and is a member of the Michigan Bar Association.