A longtime fixture of Illinois State University has passed away.
Retired Department of English Chair Charlie Harris died in bed with his reading glasses on and a book by his side. He was 78.
Sally Parry, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, said Harris hired her and was an important leader for the English department at a time the direction of scholarship was shifting.
"He was also a terrific scholar. He hired David Foster Wallace, which was very important in terms of our presence in creative writing and post-modern literature. And on a personal note, he was such a funny person. He told great stories. He was just an all around good person," said Parry.
Various friends in the campus community said Harris was universally well regarded as a leader of a sometimes fractious department.
Greg Simpson, the dean of the college, said Harris remained a good university citizen after his retirement, staying active on a variety of fronts including as head of the Annuitants Association.
"He was inducted into the College Hall of Fame a few years ago and gave a very moving, heartfelt talk about his experiences at ISU including his friendship with David Foster Wallace. That was right after the movie release of 'The End of the Tour' about Wallace's life," said Simpson.
On a Facebook post, Harris's son, Greg, posted a moving statement.
"My dad was my hero. The consummate Southern gentleman, funny, engaging, well-rounded, a professor and scholar. I suspect if he had not attended college on a football scholarship that he would have followed his own father into a career on the rail road. But college created that spark. Hence, it’s appropriate that he died with his reading glasses on, and a book by his side," wrote Harris.
Harris is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, former McLean County Board member Victoria Harris, two children, and three grandchildren.
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