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Widener Honors President Harris with Endowed Scholarship, Residence Hall

Widener students honor President James Harris and his wife, Mary, at a reception in University Center on May 1.

The Widener University Board of Trustees took several actions at their May meeting to honor President James T. Harris III who is leaving the university at the end of July to become president of the University of San Diego.

The board voted to name the new residence hall at Providence Avenue and 15th Street James T. Harris III Hall. The residence hall will house 200 students and will include space for a living-learning community. Harris Hall will also include an Einstein Bros. Bagels and a Moe’s Southwest Grill. Expected to be completed in time for the opening of the fall semester, Harris Hall will be the first new residence hall on campus since 2006.

In addition, the trustees approved a scholarship in honor of President Harris and his wife, Mary. The James T. and Mary C. Harris III Scholarship will be given annually to a graduate student on the Main Campus with a strong academic record and demonstrated involvement in community activities. Members of the Widener community raised more than $100,000 to establish the endowed scholarship which was announced at a reception in honor of the Dr. and Mrs. Harris on May 6. 

Lastly, the trustees voted to award Harris President Emeritus status in honor of his 13 years of service to the university.

“During his tenure, Dr. Harris took transformed a regionally respected university into one of the nation’s leading metropolitan universities,” said General John H. Tilelli, chair of the Board of Trustees. “These honors, approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees, will serve as reminders for generations to come of the enduring mark that Dr. Harris has made at Widener.”

As president of Widener, Harris shepherded the university’s first strategic plan which led to the university’s current mission and vision emphasizing civic engagement and leadership development. He also transformed the university financially and physically, more than tripling the university’s endowment, doubling financial aid to students, and opening two new academic buildings and two new residence halls during his tenure.

Harris also left his mark on the Chester community, developing Widener into one of the city’s primary anchor institutions by opening the state’s first university-based charter school, subleasing Widener property for the development of University Crossings, and working with the presidents of five other areas institutions to open the College Access Center of Delaware County.

The university has been recognized by the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, The Carnegie Foundation, Washington Monthly and Newsweek/The Daily Beast for its community engagement efforts.

"Many people have contributed to our success at Widener over the past thirteen years so it is humbling to be singled out and recognized in such a manner,” Harris said. “Mary and I are grateful for the opportunity we have had to serve with so many wonderful people at Widener and will always be proud of our affiliation with this great university."