In Memoriam: John Kenneth Harris January 7, 1934 - January 8, 2013
After a brief illness, J. Kenneth “Ken” Harris, emeritus professor of Mathematical Sciences and long-time Budget director, died January 8, 2013, at his family home in Beaverton.
In 1962, Prof. Harris joined PSU’s Department of Mathematical Science as an assistant professor and thereafter deployed his scholarly discipline and training in a career that embraced instruction, research, and academic managerial service. His highly popular classes attracted large enrollments at a time of burgeoning interest in mathematics.
Active engagement in teacher-training led to directing National Science Foundation Summer Institutes on Mathematics of Computers for Secondary Teachers (1968 and 1969) with participants selected on a nation-wide basis. He also supervised on-campus NSF in-service institutes for teachers. In 1969 he was appointed to serve as assistant dean of Graduate Studies and Research with supervisorial responsibility for submitting proposals and reporting results for sponsored programs. He advanced in academic rank to associate professor in 1967 and to professor in 1974.
The University’s growth and development prompted President Joseph Blumel to reorganize the institution’s central administration in 1974 by merging the offices of Administration, Business Administration, and Finance, and concurrently establishing a separate Budget Office with wide-ranging fiscal oversight responsibilities. Prof. Harris skillfully headed the Budget Office until his retirement.
His energetic interaction with officials at every level across the University contributed enormously to effective fiscal management and program expansion. Through hard work, he competently worked out solutions to meet complicated problems. For example, to enable mounting an international outreach through study-abroad programs, he devised appropriate budgetary arrangements for collaborating with other institutions. A significant highlight of his supportive role in university governance occurred through assisting and advising President Blumel during the institution’s initial collective bargaining sessions in 1978.
The Budget Office mission led him to be well known, and everyone who associated with Prof. Harris highly valued his insights. An outgoing personality prompted him to socialize with campus colleagues and he always accepted invitations to events that featured conversation and refreshments. His career and service provided significant support for the rise of PSU’s stature as a comprehensive instructional and research institution.
Prof. Harris earned a bachelor's degree from California State University Fresno in 1952 in mathematics and physics. Cold War military service (1955-1956) in West Germany interrupted his studies leading to AB (1958) and MA (1959) degrees in mathematics. In 1959 he entered graduate studies at the University of Oregon, completing a PhD (1962) in mathematics and topology. Prof. Harris’s service as a teaching assistant at Fresno State and teaching/research fellow at the University of Oregon laid the groundwork for his professional career.
Prof. Harris met his spouse, Charlotte, when they were students in Fresno, and she survives him as do their children: John Harris (Jane Rowden); Mary Ellen (Steve) Harriswangler; Liz (Brian) Azinger; sister-in-law, Sue Olsen; and, eight grandchildren.
Prof. Harris actively supported community and church programs. Remembrances may be made to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church of Beaverton. Please visit the online guest book at www.oregonlive.com/obits.
Victor C. Dahl, Emeritus Professor of History, March 9, 2013