WHO: Harris Dusenbery ’36
MAJOR: Political Science
WHY: “The good life.”
HOW MUCH: $151,271.63
STAT: Harris and 303 other donors have given faithfully to Reed every year since 1989.
In the summer of 1932, Harris Dusenbery ’36 purchased his first car for $15. That 1923 Ford coupe got him to his uncle’s Montana ranch where he earned money to pay his annual college tuition, which was $200.
Like many of the nearly 400 students attending Reed at the time, Harris was a day dodger, living at home and commuting to school. In their study of humanities, first-year students were schooled in ancient Greek literature and history, which taught that despite an ever-changing world, the problems in society are basically the same.
However, even without factoring in the Great Depression, things were unusually grim worldwide. Il Duce ruled Italy, Japan had invaded Manchuria, and Adolf Hitler was a year away from launching the Third Reich.
As a political science major, Harris studied the differences between fascism, nazism, and communism with George Bernard Noble [political science 1922–47]. The flurry of programs spearheaded by the newly elected Franklin Roosevelt became a keen topic of discussion at Reed.
When he wasn’t verbally scaling the empyrean heights in conference, Harris took to the mountains for recreation. It was on a climb up Mount Hood with other Reedies that he met his future wife, Evelyn Shields ’37.
After graduating from Reed, Harris began working for the newly created Social Security Administration. He worked there until he retired in 1969, with one interruption: serving in the army during World War II.
Harris’ unit-—the 10th Mountain Division—was the last one sent to Italy. He has written three books about his war experiences, remembering them as the most frightening and exciting of his life.
That trip to Italy only whetted his appetite for travel. He and Evelyn eventually made 52 trips abroad, visiting 82 different countries.
“Travel made me realize that humanity is really one community on the surface of the earth, and it’s a community of equals, at least in terms of who we are as human beings,” Harris says. “Even if your own country is a big one, like the United States, it’s still a relatively small part of the world.”
Reed has been a central part of Harris’ life. Both of his children, David Dusenbery ’64 and Diane Waggoner ’68, attended. In 1985, Harris and Evelyn established the Verne and Elizabeth Dusenbery Memorial Scholarship to honor his parents’ memory, and, in 2002, they funded the Harris and Evelyn Dusenbery Gift Annuity. Evelyn passed away in 2008.
Harris continues to be a generous supporter of the Annual Fund and the endowment. As a member of the Eliot Society, he has named Reed as a beneficiary of his estate.
“I adopted my wife’s philosophy that it is important to live frugally and to give generously,” Harris says. “Our society has gotten the idea that it’s important to live the big life, the affluent life. The really important thing is to live the good life.”
Giving makes him feel good, he says, and fosters relationships, which are more important than things. He gives to the college to keep illuminated “the liberal light that is Reed.”