Meet President Harris

USD President James Harris III.

Silver Spoon? Nope.
“I remember when my dad received a raise to a dollar an hour. It was a big deal to make one dollar an hour. I also remember the time that he sold his car for $200 and went to the bank and asked for it all in dollar bills. He came home with the money in a paper bag and threw those bills up in the air. I ran all over the room scooping them up. No, I didn’t get to keep the money. He needed it to buy another car. But, he often did fun things like that to make me feel special.”

Music that Transports Him Back to the Age of Nine
Jim grew up in the auto town of Fostoria, Ohio. He looked to Detroit as the “big city” nearby, and as a kid he listened to Motor City radio stations. Favorites remain Gladys Knight, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder and Lou Rawls, but Marvin Gaye will always hold a special place in his heart.

Five Jobs that are Not Actually Listed on His CV
1) Newspaper delivery boy
2) Ice cream parlor clerk
3) Custodian
4) Crank shaft manufacturer
5) Seasonal worker at tomato processing plant

Mr. Hite = Awesome
“I wasn’t sure if I would go to college when I was in high school. Since my dad had seniority at the factory where he worked, he could have arranged for me to get a good paying job there. However, during the spring of my senior year in high school, my English literature teacher, Mr. Hite, would come into the ice cream parlor where I worked and we would talk about the literature we were reading in class. I thought it was just because he liked butter pecan ice cream, but it was actually because he was trying to convince me to consider going to college. Obviously, it worked.”

And All These Years Later, He Hasn’t Forgotten
“The best life advice I ever received was from my grandmother. I was working as a custodian, trying to earn money for college. I had a nametag and pushed a cart around. I worked in a few factories where I would clean cafeterias and rest rooms and so forth. I noticed that most people walked by and never said hello or engaged me in any way. I remember going home and being upset and sharing my experience with my grandmother, who said to me ‘Be glad that you have a job and that you have the blessing of being able to earn money, many people don’t. Be glad you’re going off to college.’ And she said, ‘Never forget what it feels like to be invisible.’”

Such a Cute Couple
Jim met Mary in a University of Toledo psychology class on the day before the blizzard of 1978. “She was sitting behind me, and I needed to borrow notes from somebody, because I had missed the day before. It turned out that she had missed two days before that, so we exchanged notebooks at the end of class. The blizzard hit that night, and classes were cancelled for the rest of the week. We both came back and sat in the same chairs, both worried about whether or not our notes were going to come back. It was love at first sight for me. I don’t think it was for her.”

How Jim Knew Mary Was “The One”
“It was something in her voice.”

How Mary Knew Jim Was “The One”
“It was something in his voice.”

Book Read on the Plane Returning from Family Summer Trip to Barcelona
“The most recent book I’ve read was The Church of Mercy, by Pope Francis. It’s a collection of his homilies and writings. I read a biography about him this summer as well. He is an inspiration and the living embodiment of servant leadership. He’s sending a remarkable message to us all about our responsibilities to serve the poor and care for our planet.”

(Not Really Feeling All That) Guilty Pleasure
Jim’s dream meal would be barbecue ribs, Tony Packo’s “sweet hot” pickles and peppers, a bag of Ballreich’s potato chips, and an ice-cold IPA. Bonus points if this is consumed while watching House of Cards with Mary and the boys.

Jim’s rib preparation is involved, and takes 8-12 hours from start to finish. “First, I sear them on the grill, put my special dry rub on them, and follow that with my wet sauce. I cook them low-and-slow in the oven at 250 degrees and keep basting them all day. I like my ribs juicy; the end result is probably closest to Memphis style.” For dessert? He makes a mean German Chocolate Cake. Yes, from scratch.

Now Here’s a Somewhat Surprising Revelation
“I love blues music. My favorite blues musicians include Stevie Ray Vaughn, Keb Mo and Buddy Guy. I love the feel of experiencing live music in a great blues establishment. My favorite place to hear the blues is in Chicago. What a great music town.”

A Tale of Two Presidents
When Jim was president of Widener University in Pennsylvania, then-Senator Barack Obama came to campus. “It was 2008, the week before the election, and it was a cold, rainy day. Twelve thousand people were gathered in this little quad on our campus and they’d been waiting in the cold for hours. When I went out to welcome everyone in front of the international news media, they couldn’t hear me because the mic wasn’t working properly. Senator Obama wore a black leather jacket and blue jeans and looked so cool. I was not so brave, wearing a poncho and a stocking cap.”

Beach Reading?
“One book I found fascinating is entitled Lincoln’s Melancholy. It describes in detail how Lincoln was a mere mortal like the rest of us, and how he overcame many obstacles. The key themes are resiliency and integrity; I think both of those are characteristics that any leader needs to be successful. He had great empathy for others. That’s what made him our greatest president.”