Mike Harris, UWRF

Mike Harris

This story was first published April 1, 2021.

RIVER FALLS -- Michael Harris, Ph.D., a University of Wisconsin-River Falls alumni who went on to dedicate more than four decades to the UWRF as an admired and respected professor, researcher, department chair and dean, will soon be recognized in two significant ways: a new fund and a renamed lab in his honor.

Interim Chancellor Connie Foster announced Tuesday the launch of a fundraising campaign for the Dr. Michael Harris Communication Sciences and Disorders Opportunity Fund, which will provide critical resources for a variety of CSD priorities and needs. The campaign will also result in the renaming of one of the CSD’s research areas as the Dr. Michael Harris Augmentative and Alternative Communication Lab.

“I am delighted to announce this special recognition for Mike, along with UWRF’s sincere appreciation for all he has done for his alma mater over the course of one of the longest and most successful tenures in the nearly 150-year history of our great institution,” Foster said. “Mike has left a lasting imprint at UWRF, and his decades of unselfish service and leadership will not be forgotten.”

Harris, an Ellsworth native who arrived at River Falls as an undergraduate in 1974, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UWRF. He earned his doctoral degree in educational psychology-special education from the University of Minnesota. During his UWRF career, Harris became a recognized leader in the field of communication disorders as he served as professor, chair of CSD, and dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. He retired Dec. 30, 2020.

Harris’s new UWRF honor was met with accolades from his former colleagues.

“During his 40-plus years at UWRF, from undergraduate, to part-time instructor, to professor, to department chair, to dean, Mike has been a quiet leader on campus,” said UWRF Professor and administration emerita Faye Perkins, who is leading the Harris campaign’s fundraising effort. “Day in and day out, Mike put the needs of his students, faculty, staff and the university above his own needs. He humbly exemplifies the meaning of ‘servant leader’ and his integrity is beyond reproach.”

UWRF CSD Clinical Professor Sarah Smits said, “It’s impossible to capture the impact that Mike’s service, skills and leadership have had on so many. In his work as a speech pathologist specializing in augmentative and alternative communication, he has literally given voices to those who had none. As a colleague and mentor, he taught me advocacy — for myself, our clients, our students, and our program.”

To support the Harris fund, donors may submit tax deductible contributions to the UWRF Foundation at https://www.uwrf.edu/give/. Donors should specify the donation is for the Michael Harris CSD Fund. Checks should be made payable to the UWRF Foundation with Michael Harris CSD Fund indicated in the memo line. Mail to UW-River Falls Foundation, 118 North Hall, 410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls, WI 54022.

For more information, call university advancement officer Kellie Burrows at 715-425-4427 or email kellene.burrows@uwrf.edu.

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