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College of Education > News and Publications > News: April-June 2013 > Harris receives University's Distinguished Alumni Award

Harris receives University's Distinguished Alumni Award

College of Education alumnus James T. Harris III will receive Penn State's highest award for an individual, the Distinguished Alumni Award.


James T. Harris IIIThe Penn State Board of Trustees recently honored James T. Harris III with the University’s highest award for an individual, the Distinguished Alumni Award.

The award salutes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional achievements and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.

Harris earned his doctorate in higher education administration from Penn State’s College of Education in 1988. He attained a master’s of educational administration from Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pa., in 1983, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education/comprehensive social sciences from the University of Toledo in 1980. All three universities have recognized Harris as a distinguished alumnus.

For the past 11 years, he has served as the president of Widener University in Chester, Pa. He is only the ninth president in Widener’s 191-year history. Previously, he was president of Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio, where he was named one of the top 50 character-building presidents in the United States by the John Templeton Foundation. Harris was also vice president at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.

Harris was named an Alumni Fellow in 2003 by the Penn State Alumni Association. The College of Education has recognized him twice, in 2001 with an Excellence in Education Award and in 1996 with an Alumni Leadership and Service Award.

Harris is nationally recognized for his work in civic engagement. In 2011 he was awarded the Chief Executive Leadership Award by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. He serves on multiple boards in leadership positions including vice chair and a member of the executive committee of the National Campus Compact; the leadership committee of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education; the steering committee of the National Anchor Institutions Task Force; and is the current Chair of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania.

Since 2002, Harris has been a member of the faculty of the Management Development Program and the Management and Leadership in Education Program at Harvard University.

He is the author of more than 20 articles on higher education. In 2012 he co-authored the book Academic Leadership and Governance of Higher Education with Bob Hendrickson, Penn State professor of higher education; Jason E. Lane, the director of education studies and senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at State University of New York; and Richard H. Dorman, the president of Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa.

In addition, Harris has traveled to 17 foreign countries on various trips with college students.

-- By Andy Elder (April 2013)