Harris Edward Ross died suddenly at his home in Lacey, Washington, on March 29, 2018. Born November 11, 1946, in Crossett, Arkansas, he was the son of the late Henry Clay Ross and Ruth Elizabeth Harris. A 1964 graduate of Crossett High School, he attended the University of Arkansas where, after an unpleasant encounter with Organic Chemistry, he abandoned his preparation for medical school to become an English major. Harris wrote weekly film reviews for the official student newspaper and for a highly regarded regional independent paper through his undergraduate and graduate studies and, in 1967, with financial backing from his mentor, Professor Ben Kimpel, founded the Film Arts Society. Ultimately co-opted by the University, the Film Committee became the most successful organization operating out of the Student Union.
An extraordinary teacher, Harris credited the University of Arkansas’ English Department for assigning him increasing numbers of course sections each semester through his years as a graduate student. Though he often worried that he was not up to the job, his earliest course evaluations were already as positive as they remained for the rest of his teaching life. After completing his Ph.D., Professor Ross began his career at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, before moving to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, where he first taught courses in Journalism. In 1984, he accepted a position in the University of Delaware’s English Department, working first in the Journalism and then in the Film concentrations. His gifts as an instructor, advisor and mentor were recognized by the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003. He retired in 2014, following his daughter and her family first to Connecticut and then to Washington state.
When Harris met Kathleen Duke in early September 1966, neither realized that a chance encounter would lead to a lifetime partnership as they moved from casual acquaintances to classmates to friends, to better friends, to unstar-crossed lovers. They established a life together, formalizing their relationship in 1977, much to the relief of older relatives and their more conservative professors. Their only child, Caroline Elizabeth Ross, was born during their year in Texas. His daughter, who shares his sense of humor, was the delight of his life. His family was its center, and he rejoiced when it grew to include Caroline’s husband David Wojcik and their daughters, Stella and Lucy.
During their last decade at the University of Delaware, Harris and Kathleen conducted a number of Study Abroad programs in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland. As a consequence, students from colleges and majors across the University had a chance to learn and laugh with Dr. Ross.
In addition to his immediate family, Harris is survived by his sister, Mary, and his brother-in-law, William Scarlett, of Crossett, Arkansas; his niece, Anne Gavin Lynagh and her family of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; his uncle by marriage, George Edward McCain of Jacksonville, Arkansas; and brother-in-law, Franklin Duke, also of Jacksonville, Arkansas.