Third Wife of Miami Philosopher Accused of Sexual Harassment Seeks Divorce

According to Miami-Dade court records, Catherine Mortenson began divorce proceedings in June.
According to Miami-Dade court records, Catherine Mortenson began divorce proceedings in June.
Photo by Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Creative Commons

Three years ago, a female graduate student at the University of Miami accused her professor — the most prominent member of the philosophy department — of sexual harassment. Monica Morrison's case against Colin McGinn, a married, world-renowned author of 25 books, grew into a contentious battle detailed by New Times earlier this year.

McGinn was accused of sending his student sexually charged emails that made her uncomfortable — repeatedly using terms like "slight erection," "handjob," and "Lolita" (which he said was his favorite book) and even asking her to have sex. McGinn resigned from the University of Miami but was never charged. Morrison is now suing McGinn in Miami-Dade civil court for sexual harassment and civil assault.

Initially, McGinn's wife of more than ten years stayed by him — something McGinn told New Times in March has been "very hard on her."

But according to Miami-Dade court records, it appears that Catherine Mortenson, a publicist for Universal Studios and DreamWorks, is trying to divorce McGinn. Mortenson's attorneys declined comment, citing their firm's policy. McGinn and his attorney did not respond to New Times requests for comment. (We'll update this post if we hear back.)

According to the 66-page complaint filed by Morrison's attorneys in October, McGinn was not satisfied with his wife:

As the semester progressed, Defendant McGINN almost entirely stopped discussing philosophy during his meetings with Plaintiff, and spoke only of his personal life and sexual desires. He would often complain that his wife, Cathy Mortenson, did not sexually satisfy him and as a result he was unhappy with his marriage. Plaintiff listened in silence and did not respond when he made such comments. 

Mortenson is McGinn's third wife. The couple married in New York while McGinn was teaching philosophy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. They lived in an Upper West Side apartment facing the Hudson River. Mortenson moved to Miami with McGinn in 2006, when he accepted a tenured position teaching at the University of Miami. 

Last August, Eastern Carolina University offered McGinn a visiting professorship, then pulled it after an outcry about the alleged sexual harassment. 

A property records search reveals that the couple co-own a million-dollar condo on Miami Beach that they purchased in 2006 and their home in Coral Way, which was purchased in 2013 for $725,000. 

While studying at Oxford in the 1970s, a then-21-year-old McGinn married his first wife, Marie Page. The couple soon divorced. "She was tired of being called Mrs. McGinn," he told New Times in March.

McGinn's relationships since have been unconventional. In 1974, he began lecturing at University College London. Five years later, he impregnated a student, Mary Glynn (whom McGinn says was not in any of his classes). Though they never married, McGinn is proud of his only child, Bruno, who grew up to become an ear surgeon. 

McGinn then spent his 30s juggling various visiting professorships, from California to Helsinki. In 1984, he returned to Oxford and married a philosophy academic, Dr. Anita Avramides. But that relationship ended just like his first marriage.

"I've been involved with brilliant women academics for some time," McGinn told New Times in March. "I don't have trouble with that concept."

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