Retired professor Carl Harris dies

Carl HarrisProfessor Emeritus Carl V. Harris (’44), whose gentle ways and love of the classics inspired generations of students, died Aug. 9 in Winston-Salem. He was 88.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Salemtowne Retirement Community in Winston-Salem.

Harris taught Greek literature and language in the classical languages department from 1956 until retiring in 1989. He is survived by his wife, Lucille, a retired music instructor at Wake Forest.

A native of Morganton, N.C., Harris attended Mars Hill College before majoring in Greek at Wake Forest. While at Mars Hill, he received a medal for “scholarship, character and manners,” words that just as easily described him 70 years later.

“He was devoted to learning and teaching in an especially commendable way,” said Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson (’43), who met Harris when the two were students on the Old Campus. “He found beauty in the Greek classics, and he believed in the presence of beauty and love in his own life. He was a remarkably gentle and loving person.”

Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Languages James Powell became close friends with Harris and his wife when he joined the faculty in 1988. “He was a gentle man, very thoughtful, with a sweetness of temperament. “There was an extraordinary warmth about him. He had a genuine concern for the people around him.”

Powell said Harris considered himself a teacher first, and a classicist second. “He was very good at teaching Greek, but what really stood out to me was his belief in teaching the whole person and his concern for students as human beings. The level of devotion to his students was quite remarkable. He embodied a lot of the old Wake Forest in that.”

After graduating from Wake Forest, Harris received a Master of Divinity and the Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Duke University. He taught briefly at Mars Hill, East Carolina University and the University of Dubuque in Iowa before joining the Wake Forest faculty in 1956, the first year on the new campus.

When he retired in 1989, Harris said, “I could never say that I have been bored in teaching my subject, Greek, all these years. I have not been bored because I have had different students and every day presents a new challenge… For me, teaching is not so much an occupation as a way of life.”

By Kerry M. King (’85)