Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Passing of George Harmon

Now that I've gotten over the shock a little bit, I feel like I can write something about the passing of George Harmon.

I say shock because Dr Harmon always worked on staying in shape and a week ago was in far better condition than most people his age. He died from a blood infection from a scrape on his arm which just goes to show that no man knows the hour of his passing.

Dr Harmon came to Millsaps at a fairly low point in the college's history. We were a small, liberal arts college, awash in a sea of small, liberal arts colleges, with nothing to distinguish us from the others.

Harmon's idea was to build up the business school. We didn't even have a business school at that point. We offered accounting and economics, but nothing that you could call a business management curricula.

That actually put us at an advantage. We didn't have a business school, but neither did most of the schools we competed against. By putting one in, we were in the position of an early adapter which gave us a considerable head start on the competition.

The move didn't come without controversy. There were those who saw it as abandoning the liberal arts roots of the college and bringing in a business school meant bringing in conservative thinkers who would clash with the school's more liberal base.

The plan worked though, and a rising tide raises all ships. Pretty soon enrollment was up, the school became more financially stable and we were building new buildings. As a result, the liberal arts program went from barely surviving by the skin of its teeth, to being fairly stable, although less populated than the business school.

Harmon had an unforgettable personality. He was relentlessly aggressive, which sometimes got him in trouble, but most often made him a bulldog at accomplishing his goals.

He didn't socialize with the faculty much and they were often at odds, but something many people didn't know, he was dearly loved by the maintenance department who would invite him when they had barbeque's or other social events.

Dr Harmon was perhaps one of the more controversial individuals ever involved in Millsaps, but there's no way you can look at the college when he came and compare it to the college as it is today and not think we were much better off that he came.

He is survived by two daughters, Mary and Beth, a son, George and his lovely wife Bessie.

1 comment:

Nicole Bradshaw said...

I have been thinking of him, too, and I remember his close relationship with the maintenance staff. On holidays, he'd come up to the office party for cheesesticks and punch, put in his 20 minutes or so, and then go down to the maintenance building and eat a big lunch (turkey, dressing, tons of sides, a HUGE dessert spread - they all brought something) with them.

I always thought he was probably counting the minutes until he could throw his tiny styrofoam appetizer plate in the garbage and head out there for a real meal!