May 7, 2021

President Wilson reflects on the passing of Mort Harris, philanthropist and friend of Wayne State University

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Mort Harris and Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson in 2017 when Harris Harris committed $10 million toward WSU's highly competitive Wayne Med-Direct program.

Yesterday evening, we learned of the passing of Mort Harris at the age of 101. Mort was an American hero, a highly successful entrepreneur, a generous philanthropist and a friend of Wayne State University. This description only touches the surface, though, as Mort is a lesson to all of us in how to live a full and meaningful life.

I met Mort when I joined Wayne State in 2013 — and as impressed as I was with his credentials, I was even more impressed with his humility. Anyone who has reached his incredibly high levels of success could be justifiably proud, but that wasn’t Mort. Despite his financial success and his many military and civilian honors, Mort was humble and kind, and he would happily opt for a sandwich over a five-star meal because it was the people he was with that mattered most.

Wayne State was the fortunate beneficiary of Mort’s thoughtful generosity, and his substantial gifts were often in support of students in need. His name is on our campus fitness center, and his impact is felt by students in his support of programs like the HIGH Program and Wayne Med-Direct.

It’s always tempting to say that losing a man like Mort is “the end of an era,” but in this case, it’s fitting. Mort was a great man, and the world suffers a loss with his passing. For me, personally, he was not only a great man but a great friend as well. I will miss him and his zest for life, but I am happy his legacy will live on at our university and with our students.

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