USD announces James T. Harris as fourth president


President Inside

The University of San Diego announced its fourth president last week. James T. Harris III, current president of Widener University, will succeed Mary E. Lyons in August of this year. Harris is the last candidate in the presidential race. He received a unanimous vote from the board of trustees.

Harris seems to be a person of the people. He said that he has found various ways to connect with his current university, Widener University, and he plans on connecting with the USD community. Harris explained that being integrated into the student community and occasionally attending student events, are among his plans to become a part of USD.

Harris converted to Roman Catholicism. Taking the Bible as a guide, Harris quotes the gospel of Luke, and finds a rule to live by.

“To whom much is given much is required,” Harris said. “Being part of the human race, means you have to give back.”

During his time as USD’s fourth president, Harris and the board of trustees will discuss a few primary goals. Living out the university’s Catholic mission, as well as becoming more involved with the San Diego community are among the long-term initiatives.

“One [goal] would be deeply and more engaged in the city of San Diego,” Harris said. “And to continue to expand global educational experiences for our students.”

Harris has made one of his first goals to listen, to the students, faculty and staff. In achieving this goal, Harris and his wife Mary have hosted students at their house, while he has been president of Widener University.

“We have had anywhere from 800 to 1,000 people at our house,” Harris said. He even went on to say that he has baked for students including his famous German chocolate cake.

Amongst these chief initiatives, Harris has not expressed the removal of any programs or events. A topic under question from students surrounds the university’s drag show, put on by PRIDE, that garners attention from the local news each spring.

“I would have to study it [the drag show] more,” Harris said. “But I have no intention of changing anything at this moment.”

Harris explains that changing the university from the get-go is not a primary concern. Unless someone retires, Harris has no plans in altering the faculty that work in the office of the president.

Widener University, where Harris is the current president, planned on having Harris as the president until 2017. Harris as well expected that being the president of Widener would be his last job before retirement. When USD invited him to apply for the presidency, Harris agreed to be considered. Now that he has earned the job, Harris has realized it is time for a change.

“It is the right time for me to make a move in my career,” Harris said. “[USD] has all the elements that I would think make it a great university.”

According to Ron Fowler, the chair of the board of trustees, Harris is the best candidate for the vacant presidential seat.

In Fowler’s campuswide email announcement to the university, he explained why Harris was best suited for the job.

“Dr. Harris is ideally suited to build upon the impressive progress witnessed at USD under the leadership of President Lyons,” Fowler said. “He is a compassionate servant leader with extensive experience leading a comprehensive, liberal-arts based institution, with a particular commitment to student development and engagement in the community. His strategic leadership at Widener in creating a clear vision for the university, promoting shared governance, and delivering measurable results in a thriving educational environment has been independently recognized as a model for other universities.”

Harris starts on the first of August, and will move into the house of the president on USD’s campus. Harris, although makes no promises as to what initiatives will be at the forefront of his presidency, plans on establishing a relationship with the university community.

“I am willing to listen and be open,” Harris said. “I think a president should be visible.”