Exceptional Graduates: Carnegie Hero first in family to attend college; will pursue career in industrial chemistry

Exceptional graduate Robert Hart Morgan
Robert Hart Morgan holds his diploma for a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical and biological engineering from Colorado State University. He dons the red, green, and gold Carnegie Hero Fund honor cords, a tassel representing Front Range Community College, and a medal for the College of Engineering

This past spring, Robert Hart Morgan graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor of science degree in chemical and biological engineering. He was the first member of his family to attend college.

Six years earlier, Morgan saved a 22-year-old woman from drowning after her car entered Lake Loveland on Nov. 28, 2015, in Colorado. The driver remained in the driver’s seat as her car submerged in water 7 feet deep at a point 75 feet from the bank.

Morgan and a friend, both 18-year-old college students, witnessed the accident and went to the water’s edge. The air was a frigid 19 degrees and the water was near freezing. Morgan removed his outer layers and entered the lake. He swam to the passenger side of the car and broke out the door’s window with his elbow.

Water rushed into the passenger compartment. Morgan leaned through the window and pulled the woman from the car as she held to his neck. Morgan towed her to wadable water, and carried her from the lake.

The woman and Morgan required hospital treatment for cold water exposure. Morgan also injured his elbow. He recovered.

“I learned from that day that I’m a person who is not afraid to take action,” Morgan said.

As a result of his lifesaving action, Morgan was named a Carnegie hero two years later. In addition to receiving the Carnegie Medal and a financial award, he also became eligible for scholarship assistance.

Between the rescue and the award, Morgan had stopped attending college after completing a mix of classes at Colorado State University and a local community college because he couldn’t afford it.

“Being awarded allowed me to continue on with my education and truly focus on that aspect of my life,” Morgan said. “I always knew I was smart enough to get through my engineering coursework, and it was very frustrating for me not to be able to continue.”

The academic scholarship from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission allowed him to transfer to Colorado State University and, as Morgan describes it, “become my best self.”

Exceptional graduate Robert Hart Morgan
Robert Hart Morgan (right) pictured with his friends and classmates Ian Lea (left) and Courtney Mack (center).

From a young age, Morgan’s parents encouraged his love of chemistry, buying him do-it-yourself microscopes and chemistry sets.

In high school, his scientific pursuits were further fortified by chemistry teacher Doug Halvorsen, who, in his last semester of teaching, embraced experimentation and highlighted his favorite areas of the subject for his students.

Morgan credits Halvorsen with opening his eyes to the wide range of career possibilities in the field of industrial chemistry—an industry that applies to processes in manufacturing, arts, and the commercial production of chemicals.

“I initially wanted to go to college for business, but he helped me to see that combining your passion with something people will pay you for is an excellent way to start a career,” Morgan said.

Morgan hopes to join the military and has been in talks with a Navy recruiter for their competitive nuclear propulsion officer candidacy program, an MIT sponsored program that includes one year of technical school and other training before working with the advanced systems implemented by the Navy.

Morgan said the program includes hands-on experience as well as completing the first steps toward a master’s degree.

In his first meeting for the program, Morgan was thrilled that the recruiter knew about the Carnegie Medal. For Morgan, this moment highlighted the wide ranging community of Carnegie heroes and those who admire their altruistic acts, he said.

Outside of Morgan’s educational and professional pursuits, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and biking in the summer and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

“Growing up in Colorado I’ve grown a great appreciation for the outdoors,” Morgan said.

Morgan is currently in Sicily, Italy, on a work exchange program, fulfilling a personal goal of traveling to Europe.

Congratulations, Robert! The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is excited to see what you do next!

— Abby Brady, operations and outreach assistant/archivist