Donald Harris '48

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He has lived in Chile, Panama, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, but it is New York City that Don Harris '48 calls home now. A degree in petroleum engineering from Penn State was his "ticket" to the world. "I finished school at a really positive time when the economy was ready to expand. Companies came to campus eager for engineering graduates. I chose Standard Oil of California," noted Harris. It was back to the state where he was born and the beginning of a long and rewarding career of 46 years. "After some years with Standard Oil, I joined Gulf Oil Corporation. After retiring from Gulf, I worked with Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. During that time, I lived in New York City and traveled extensively between the states, London, and the Middle East."

It was quite the adventure for a boy who grew up during the Depression on a farm in western Pennsylvania. His father died when Harris was just five years old, and his mother moved back to Pennsylvania and the family farm. Harris grew up milking the cows before and after school and helping with the cattle, chickens, and pigs. "We were pretty much self-sufficient when I was growing up," observed Harris. "But it was really hard work." He was ready to go when it was time for college at 17. "I had a cousin who had majored in petroleum engineering and had done well with Sun Oil. When my mother suggested I choose the same career, it seemed like a good idea. I've never regretted it."

Penn State was the logical choice, both for location and cost. It was friends he met in classes who first introduced him to Alpha Chi Sigma. "I enjoyed living in the house. It helped me mature socially and make friends. You learned how to get along with other people. I especially remember our cook, Ruthie Probst. She was very motherly as well as a great cook," remembered Harris. His own mother had always insisted that her kids learn the piano, and brothers heard him play the house piano now and then.

Since retiring, Harris has been involved with the Grand Destiny campaign at Penn State. He toured the newly renovated chapter house when he was on campus last April for campaign events. He also contributed a new interactive learning center in the Earth and Mineral Sciences building on campus in April 2000. The center is dedicated to his parents, Myrna and Fred Samuel Harris, in appreciation for their love and guidance, which contributed so much to his professional success and personal fulfillment.

Harris enjoys the many cultural advantages of living in New York City. He helps ensure that others have the opportunity to enjoy them, too. He is a volunteer at Carnegie Hall and also with the Institute of International Education. "The institute makes tickets to local performances and events available to Fulbright Scholars studying in the U.S. and abroad. Various organizations and businesses donate the tickets so that students who would not have the money to buy them otherwise can enjoy their experience in New York," added Harris.

In addition to volunteering, he also still has a bit of the farmer in him and enjoys gardening. He has a terrace garden at his apartment on the 18th floor. He swims and works out to stay fit. Harris can't get the travel bug out of his life. When he flies into New York now, the skyline is, of course, different since September 11. When asked about his feelings flying home one week after that tragic event, he said, "Of course, it was depressing to see. But my attitude is like that of most New Yorkers. We don't let it keep us from doing what we have always done. We have to keep going."

Members can contact Don Harris by calling him at home at 212-595-3210 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.