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Carthage remembers the late Jack Harris ’49

  • Jack Harris
March 10, 2020

Jack Harris ’49 and his wife, Mae (Voth) Harris ’52, had just started to build a new life out West when their beloved alma mater lured them back.

Mr. Harris, who had taken a job in Colorado after working briefly for the College, was recruited to rejoin the Carthage staff in 1953. So the newlyweds packed up their red Chevrolet convertible and navigated back to the familiar campus in western Illinois.

It proved to be an extraordinary hire. In all, Mr. Harris devoted 29 years of his career to the College, playing a pivotal role in its rise.

Friends and colleagues described their deep admiration for the dedicated Carthaginian, who passed away March 9 at age 92.

“Jack Harris was a key member of the team that saved Carthage College,” said President Emeritus F. Gregory Campbell. “Sharing a common vision with President Harold Lentz in the 1950s and 1960s, Jack and a few colleagues faced great risk in moving the College to Wisconsin but ultimately succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.”

Memorial Service

4 p.m. Saturday, March 14
A. F. Siebert Chapel
See campus map

Although Mr. Harris had left the College to become president of the Siebert Lutheran Foundation several years before Mr. Campbell took office, their overlapping roles afforded them many chances to connect. And they developed an abiding mutual respect.

With an inexhaustible supply of jokes, Mr. Harris won over just about everyone he met. He’d hide photos of fellow staff members in a mural outside the president’s office, for example, or pretend to name the restroom as a tribute. But, behind the pranks, Mr. Campbell also saw a perceptive, trustworthy man whose commitment to the higher education mission made him a supremely qualified fundraiser.

The Rev. Dudley Riggle, a professor emeritus of religion and former campus pastor at Carthage, developed a friendship with Mr. Harris that spanned nearly 60 years. They were colleagues on two campuses, carpooled together, raised families together, and worshiped at the same Lutheran church.

“Jack’s own faith was central to his life and work,” he said. “He was serious about church-related higher education,” as well as charity work and friendships.

Returning to Carthage as director of publicity, Mr. Harris’ title hardly encompassed the many essential duties he balanced as a one-person shop. He helped President Harold Lentz make the successful case for a campus move to Kenosha, ultimately working his way up to vice president for development.

From 1979 to 1993, Mr. Harris led the Siebert foundation, a longtime financial supporter of the College. A. F. Siebert Chapel is named for the entrepreneur who established the private foundation.

Remaining involved in his alma mater, Mr. Harris lent his extensive institutional knowledge to board deliberations as a trustee emeritus and, with his wife, endowed a scholarship to help future students. For his expansive support, Mr. Harris received the Carthage Flame in 1994.

Mr. Harris lived in Pleasant Prairie with his wife, a retired Kenosha educator. They raised three children — all of whom attended Carthage: Jolie Prasser ’78, Scott Harris ’82, and the late Jennifer Badertscher.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Mae and Jack Harris Scholarship Fund at Carthage or to the Kenosha Community Foundation.