Former faculty focus: remembering Paul Morton (ASL 1963-97)

“I have so much to be grateful for and nothing to regret.” 

Mathematician, Californian, opera aficionado, skier, friend. Former middle school math teacher Paul Morton passed away peacefully in hospital on 14 September 2022 after a brief illness, leaving behind his beloved partner, Nigel, a legacy of inspiration for countless alumni and colleagues, and a perfect-attendance record for 34 years of ASL teaching.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Paul graduated from Point Loma High School in 1952 and studied at the University of Colorado before joining the US Air Force. A post abroad first brought Paul to the UK. When he wasn’t coping with the dense fog that covered his base in Drayton, Paul was traveling to every continent for work. He left the Force for teaching, first at university and then at ASL, arriving at the Gloucester Gate townhouse in September 1963. Those early years of Paul’s career would become known to him as the “auld times,” when boys wore coats and ties, girls wore dresses, lunch was a cup of gruel served in the boiler room and faculty had season tickets to the nearby zoo in Regent’s Park for frequent class field trips.

Despite the inadequate facilities of the school’s former location, (“...the ENTIRE student body and faculty would gather in my homeroom for assemblies twice a week!” Paul recalled, incredulously, at ASL’s 25th anniversary), Mr. Morton quickly established himself as a dedicated teacher who provided office hours before and after school for any students in need of extra help mastering difficult math concepts. “He was always there for us, conducting study sessions and tutoring in his spare time,” one former student described. Yael Belkind ’90 shared a similar sentiment. “Mr. Morton taught us how to grow as people. His dedication inspired us to do our best as students.” His rapport with students was one of many gifts that Paul modeled during his long tenure at ASL; empathy and confidence-building were also on the list. “He helped to build self-esteem in those who were unsure of themselves,” a colleague once shared about Paul. “He understood his students’ middle school needs.” David Lipton ’70 praised Mr. Morton for “...making a tremendously positive impact on my life.”

While Paul’s passion for teaching math was remarkable, he pursued other interests with equal enthusiasm. “He loves champagne,” former Head of School Judith Glickman (ASL 1992-98)  once joked. “Paul does everything with fervor, and he does everything well.” This was true of his love for the opera, and Paul regularly took groups of students to Covent Garden for Royal Opera House productions. “He always wore his black velvet cape to the opera,” Jim Luedke ’69 remembered recently. Indeed, Paul’s wardrobe was notably eccentric. Not only did he not miss a single day of teaching in 34 years, he never wore the same tie twice. As an alumnus aptly put it, Paul “...was one of those talented teachers I will never forget, and one of those ASL characters I will never forget. He wore outrageous neckties and occasionally outrageous clothes.”

In 1996, a year before his retirement, Paul became the first recipient of the Harold T. Cruikshank Award. This annual recognition is given to an individual who has given extraordinary service and contribution to the American School in London. Inviting Paul to the stage to receive his honor, former Chair of the Board of Trustees John Farmer P ’91 ’94 ’97 lauded Mr. Morton for his extraordinary legacy. “You embody and epitomize what ASL is all about, and that is our children and your students,” John commended. “You serve as a role model for your colleagues as a senior educational professional who continues to demonstrate a commitment, and you strengthen that commitment each year with renewed vigor, enthusiasm, professional pride and inspiration coupled with your love of teaching.

Thank you for the memories, Mr. Morton! 
Watch Paul receive the Harold T. Cruikshank Award in June 1996