Remembering Morta Cates Riggs

May 6, 1964 – November 24, 2023

Beloved friend and Department of History colleague Morta Cates Riggs passed away at her home on November 24, 2023, following a long battle with cancer. Morta had served the department as an Office Associate since 2014 and her husband, J.C. Riggs, was a doctoral student in the department.

Morta was born and raised in Evansville, IN. She met J.C. in high school in 1983; the couple was married on August 26, 1989. J.C. joined the United States Marines Corps; during the length of his service, the Riggs lived in Quantico, VA; Fort Still, OK; Twentynine Palms, CA; Camp Pendleton, CA; and Camp Lejeune, NC. Despite its challenges, Morta enjoyed the life of a military spouse. Morta and J.C. have two sons, Matt (now 33) and Nick (now 31). Both are Marines, something in which Morta took great pride. She leaves behind two grandchildren, Grant and Tyler.

It is difficult to put into words what Morta meant to the faculty, staff, and students in the Department of History. We strive to create a welcoming and supportive culture. Morta was the best version of that culture. She was the first person you saw when you walked into the office. She was quick with a smile and blessed with a great sense of humor. Even when she was having a bad day, her immediate concern was always for others. She never complained; most people who interacted with her daily did not know she was sick. She was a trusted friend and a beautiful soul. She remains a model of how to live life with dignity, grace, and humility. We miss her dearly and will never forget her.

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