Friday, March 21, 2014

Widener University President James T. Harris III Honored for Advancing Higher Education

Hershey, Pa.--Widener University President James T. Harris III recently received the Arthur V. Ciervo Award from CUPRAP:  The Association of Communicators in Education for his contributions to higher education. CUPRAP presented Harris with the award during the organization’s annual conference in Hershey, Pa.

The award, which is named in honor of the founder and first president of CUPRAP, is presented to a public relations professional, president, higher education advocate, public official or outstanding faculty or staff member who exemplifies CUPRAP’s fundamental purposes of supporting and advancing the understanding of higher education.

In accepting the award, Harris said higher education is currently losing the public relations battle in the public forum because the conversation about higher education is focused on jobs, the economy and keeping costs low.

“Certainly, these outcomes are important on some level,” Harris said. “But what we have lost sight of is that the fundamental purpose of a college education should be to produce fully engaged global citizens.”

“The art of story-telling is what all of you do. A commitment to helping others, in the true spirit of responsible citizenship, is what our institutions do. If we combine those two elements, we will go a long way in advancing the understanding and support of higher education.”

Harris has dedicated his career to making colleges and universities agents of change in their communities, utilizing innovation and collaboration to make a difference in cities such as Chester, Pa. In his 11 years at Widener, Harris has transformed the university into one of the nation’s leading civic engagement universities, recognized by Newsweek, Washington Monthly, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the Carnegie Foundation.

In 2006, Harris and his colleagues at Widener took a bold, innovative step, launching the state’s first university based charter school—the Widener Partnership Charter School.

In addition, Harris was the driving force in establishing the Chester Higher Education Council, a consortium of presidents from colleges and universities in the region including Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Delaware County Community College, Neumann University, Penn State-Brandywine, Swarthmore College and Widener. The council’s efforts led to the opening of the College Access Center of Delaware County which provides free college preparation services to high school students and adults.  

Under his leadership, the university has also launched the High School Leadership Awards in conjunction with NBC 10 in Philadelphia. Through this program, high schools in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware nominate outstanding student leaders from their schools. The winners are recognized by Widener and NBC 10 at an awards ceremony at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and receive free leadership training at Widener.

Previous recipients of the Ciervo Award include former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker and Congressman Chaka Fattah, among others.

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