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Restauranteur Gives Opportunity Through Scholarships

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Sarah Satterwhite

Senior Editor, Strategic Content and Storytelling

Profile  •
Michael Morton

“My time at DU was four of the best years of my life,” says Michael A. Morton (BSBA ‘87). “And I hope for the same for the students receiving my scholarship.”

Morton recently made an endowed scholarship gift that will benefit hospitality students in the Daniels College of Business beginning in Fall 2022. Through the Michael A. Morton Endowed Scholarship Fund, he aims to give future generations of students the dynamic experiences of a DU education like he had.

A successful owner of multiple restaurants in Las Vegas and co-founder of Morton Group with his wife, Jenna, Morton grew up in the restaurant business. His father, Arnie Morton, was a Chicago restaurant legend who founded Morton’s Steakhouse. His brother Peter Morton (BSBA ‘69), also a DU graduate, is co-founder of the Hard Rock Café.

Even with such a storied family history in the restaurant business, it was Morton’s internship as a DU student that inspired him to become an entrepreneur.

“I worked at the Palmer House, an 1800s glamorous, old-school hotel in Chicago,” he recounts. “That internship helped me realize that I wanted to go out on my own, to be an entrepreneur.”

Years later, opening the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas stands out as a pinnacle experience.

“We opened the Palms in 2001, and I was there 12 years before selling the company,” he says. “All of the work that it took to get to that point, the good and the bad, taught me so much. Everything has to line up just right: the time, the place, the people. It was such an experience to take in.”

His experiences at DU – from the great sense of accomplishment of his several hundred-page thesis on airline food service to the friendships he maintains to this day – were life-changing, he says.

“I’ve always told my children that DU’s programs and education are amazing, and the freedom in college to find independence is so important,” he says. “That’s the opportunity I want to give to students. I’ve always wanted to give back. I hope this will help ease the pressure for some students, so they can find life-changing experiences like what I had.”

Morton’s gift to scholarships supports undergraduate students in the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management based on demonstrated financial need. Because the scholarship is endowed, it will benefit DU students in perpetuity, giving generations of students the opportunity to learn and to prepare for successful careers.

“Experiences are vital to guide the choices one makes in life,” Morton says. “The years at DU are a time to learn things that will stick with you for a lifetime, both in the classroom and in life.”

To learn about how you can make an endowed gift in support of scholarships that benefits DU students in perpetuity, contact To make a gift to scholarships, visit Scholarships & Student Success | Giving (