Television personality, life-long Flyer dies at 92

By: Emma Creekbaum – Staff Writer

The University of Dayton joins the greater Dayton community to remember Bette Rogge Morse of Dayton, who was a UD alumna as well as a Dayton television icon for over six decades.

Morse, 92, passed away Jan. 20.

Morse was born June 14, 1922, and was raised in Dayton, Ohio.

She had a calling for radio and television at an early age. Morse’s decades worth of broadcasting began on radio at WSMK in 1933 and WING in 1934, according to the UD archives.

Not only did Morse have a long-running career, but she was also a longtime Flyer.

Morse graduated from the UD in 1944. In 1977, she returned to complete her master’s degree at the age of 55. Shortly after graduating, Morse taught as a communication professor at UD.

During her time at the University of Dayton, she was featured on radio commercials.

Morse began the next step in her life, by hosting a half hour television variety show called “The Bette Rogge Show” in 1967. She interviewed numerous celebrities from all walks of life. Morse interviewed the likes of William Shatner, Mary Tyler Moore, Liberace, Loretta Swit and Lucille Ball.

Morse’s career had many highpoints; two in particular were at a national level.

First, she made a presidential visit to the White House in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson hosted international leader, King Olav of Norway. A 30 minute television special tour of the White House aired on Dayton’s WHIO-TV.

Second, Morse reported from Cape Kennedy for the space shuttle launch of Apollo 14 Jan. 31, 1971. She presented a gift from Dayton to NASA officials of a Wright brothers replica plane in honor of the Kitty Hawk command module.

Morse was a woman of many firsts in her career path. Morse was one of the first women to serve on the UD’s board of trustees, along with Virginia Kettering. Morse was Dayton’s first female TV variety show host in the late ’60s and early ’70s, according to the Dayton Area Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Morse served as the first woman president of the Dayton Salvation Army and Easter Seals. Morse was also named one of the Top 10 Women in Dayton in 1977.

In 1999, Morse was awarded an honorary doctoral degree for her dedication and service to the university.

Along with all of Morse’s  professional and personal endeavors, which included television and radio personality, board of trustees member, UD alumna, professor, actress, reporter and philanthropist,  she was a wife and mother.

Wayne  H. Morse Jr. (Buzz), 52, second child of Morse, currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

One of Buzz Morse’s fondest memories of his mother was when she had a six-foot cake from an anniversary celebration on her show that day brought to his elementary school for the entire student body.

“I would want students to know how she was anchored in the Dayton community,” Buzz Morse said.

Morse and her husband, Wayne H.  Morse Sr., “the dynamic duo” according to Buzz Morse, graciously donated two collections of archives to the UD. The first includes the Wayne and Bette Morse collection consisting of programs and documents related to her work in Dayton between 1966 and 1995. The other donation is  material from her career compiled with audiovisual recordings, programs, photographs, interviews from her show, and other material, which can be accessed through the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections.

Morse was a shining light in the Dayton community, with over 50 years of broadcasting experience, who also helped Dayton grow through service and the public good. Morse’s years dedicated to the University of Dayton has made her a lasting legacy.

“I’m not much, but I’m all I got,”  Morse said, according to TV Radio Mirror magazine of July 1972.

A memorial celebrating the life of Bette Rogge Morse will be held from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 14, at the Tobias Funeral Home, 5471 Far Hills Ave., Dayton, Ohio.