Gary Lynn Harris, Denver native, scientist and scholar, dies at 67 – The Denver Post

Gary Lynn Harris, a native of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood who went on to become an  electrical engineer and scientist, and whose research focused on semiconductor fabrication of electronic and optical materials, died Oct. 26 of colon cancer. Harris was 67.

Harris, who graduated from Manual High School in 1971, earned bachelor of science, master of science and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Cornell University, becoming one of the two first African-Americans to receive a Ph.D. in electrical engineering-electro-physics from Cornell, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

He went on to serve Howard University in various capacities, including as dean of the Graduate School and associate provost for research.

“He was often celebrated for his listening ear, willingness to provide great advice and deep love for graduate students,” said Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University, in a letter to the Howard community.

Frederick said Harris, a Howard faculty member since 1980, is fondly remembered for his “generosity of time, intellect and caring.”

Harris mentored and advised more than 150 master’s and Ph.D. graduates with their research theses and dissertations. An author, he published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles, he presented more than 200 papers at scientific conferences, and edited five books.

Harris served as an associate with the National Research and Resource Facility for Submicron Structures and he was a visiting scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory.

“Dr. Harris is the epitome of the University motto – ‘Veritas et Utilitas,’ ‘Truth and Service,’ ” said Dana A. Williams, interim dean of Howard’s Graduate School, in the community letter. “The contributions he made during his tenure as the dean of the Graduate School have had an unparalleled positive impact on the Howard University community.”

Born on June 24, 1953, Harris attended Gilpin Elementary School, Cole Middle School and Manual. As a boy, Harris demonstrated an aptitude for electronics when he helped his father, Norman, who ran a television and radio repair business from a garage on California Street in Denver.

“That’s where my brother picked up a love for electronics,” said Rickey Harris. “He would help my dad and he got really good at it.”

A scholar, Harris was named the “head boy,” equivalent to student body president, at Manual. He worked as an electrician for a local company and secured an internship at Martin Marietta.

Harris also worked with his brothers at Denver Broncos football games, selling sodas and hot dogs. He was a staunch, lifelong Broncos fan. As a teenager, he developed a passion for golf, often playing at City Park Golf Course. Later in life, Harris enjoyed travel, and with his wife, Jennifer, visited international destinations including Europe, South America, Central America and Mexico.

“Gary was a pretty outgoing person,” Rickey Harris said. “He was well liked by his peers and his friends.”

Throughout his life, Harris had a focused drive to excel. “You could see early on that he was going to do great things,” Rickey Harris said. “That’s something our grandmother instilled in all of us.”

The Harris family attended the Central Baptist Church in Denver. As an adult, when Harris visited family in Denver, he’d often go to local schools to talk with and inspire students.

“He never forgot where he came from. He would always come back and reach out to the students at Manual and other schools, and he was instrumental in getting several students to attend Howard University,” Rickey Harris said. “We are really proud of that.”

As part of his work at the Howard Nanoscale Science and Engineering Facility, Harris developed a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory, known as the “NanoExpress,” which brought science to the public and served about 10,000 enthusiasts annually. He was also known for advocating science education through media, including a news talk show, “Nano Talk,” he launched on Sirius XM.

“People can’t do what they can’t imagine” was a motto.

Harris was recognized with the Electrical Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award and the National Society of Black Engineers Scientist of the Year Award. In 2017, Cornell awarded him the inaugural Turner Kittrell Medal of Honor. In 2019, Howard dedicated the Graduate School Research and Media Center in his honor.

Harris is survived by his wife of 36 years, Jennifer; a daughter, Jamie Harris, Los Angeles, and a son, Wesley, New York; two brothers, Norman and Rickey, both of Denver; three sisters, Sophronia Ann Harris, Marlean Dorsey, and Pearl Harris, all of Denver. He was preceded in death by his parents, Norman and Gladies; and a sister, Wyona Annie Wise.

A service was held on Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C. He is interred in Fort Lincoln Cemetery, Md. In lieu of memorial contributions, the family suggests that a tree be planted in his honor.

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