John Moragues, former associate professor of social work and distance education coordinator for the Newman University Master of Social Work (MSW) program in Colorado Springs, died Nov. 18, 2020.
He helped build the program from the ground up, recruiting and advocating for the field and living his passion for social work through teaching.
While at Newman, he built relationships with local parishes, government officials, media outlets, military bases, state universities and social service organizations — all while recruiting students and hiring and training faculty and staff.
Finding a passion
His history with social work began in 1975 after graduating from the University of Texas Austin. Before that, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Creighton University.
He was drafted into the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War and ended up serving more than 20 years. He served as a photo interpreter during a yearlong tour before leaving the Air Force to earn his MSW. He then reenlisted and served as a social worker for the military until he retired as a major in 1990.
After his military career, he worked as a clinical employee assistance provider based out of Austin until 2005, when he was recruited to apply at Newman by Michael Smith, Ph.D., founding dean of what was then known as the School of Applied Social Sciences.
“I first met John back in 1975 while serving as an Air Force social work officer,” said Smith. “We worked very closely together so I got to know him very well and we began a friendship that lasted decades. We were fishing buddies and occasional handball opponents — and I never beat him.”
As dean of the social work program, Smith said he needed someone he could trust 100% given the distance separating the Wichita main campus and the Colorado Springs outreach location.
“I also needed someone who was thoroughly competent to handle the unforeseen challenges that we all knew we’d be facing. John was perfect for the job.”
Newman University Colorado Springs School of Social Work Office Coordinator Barbara Casados said social work wasn’t just his career, it was part of who he was.
“John was the epitome of a social worker and embodied the Newman Code at every opportunity,” said Casados. “He described himself as a ‘cradle Catholic,’ undeniably respected the dignity of everyone, valued and supported both personal and institutional integrity and helped prepare over 300 MSW graduates to change the world.”
Casados added that he lived out his passion and his life with joy and love.
“He was a jolly fellow with a quick and hearty laugh, loving clever remarks and embracing jokes — even ones made at his expense. He was patient and kind, supportive and helpful in both personal and professional ways, generous with his time and experience and was regarded as a mentor by many students.”
Living by example
Michael Duxler, associate professor for the School of Social Work in Wichita, described Moragues as someone who was respected and lived by example.
“The students had such affection and respect for John,” said Duxler. “His virtues, just to name a few, included accessibility, responsiveness to others’ needs, humor, storytelling, a tireless commitment to Newman and a loving heart.”
He added that the MSW program in Colorado Springs flourished because of Moragues and his values.
“Due to John’s efforts and reputation, and a stellar staff and faculty, the program grew with each subsequent year to eventually reach in excess of 65 students a year from the 20 it began with.”
After moving to Colorado Springs from Texas for his new role at Newman, Moragues quickly became an active member of the Catholic community and became involved with the Knights of Columbus.
Smith said, “John demonstrated respect for people and could recognize the value in folks. He exercised reason. He talked with people and sought cooperation. He could make tough decisions but he didn’t do that in a vacuum.
“As a person, John was self-effacing, patient, considerate and respectful of others, funny, trustworthy, deeply religious and let others know he was not perfect. He was devoted to his family and had helped them navigate any number of extremely stressful events.”
Life after retirement
Moragues retired from Newman University in 2016 but he didn’t stop working in the field he was so passionate for.
Following his retirement from Newman, he moved to a newly constructed farmhouse in northern Texas.
After trying his hand at one small job or another, he finally found employment with Catholic Charities of Fort Worth at North Central Texas College as a social work practitioner.
While there, he assisted many students in acquiring their degrees through financial assistance and counseling.
“He wasn’t content to sit at home and thought it important that he continue contributing to his family’s financial security,” said Smith.
His hobbies included “photography, woodworking, drinking coffee and eating cookies,” according to Casados.
She added, “He loved the work he did in establishing and managing the Newman MSW program in Colorado, especially recruiting students, teaching them and guiding them through graduation ceremonies.”
He and his wife Dena were married for more than 50 years, raised four children and were devoted grandparents to numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.