Chuck Harris '75

2009 Catharine Lealtad
Service to Society Award

View all Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award recipients

Chuck Harris graduated from Macalester with a major in biology and the O.T. and Kathryn Walter Award for Excellence in Premed Studies. He earned his medical degree at Howard University in 1979 and began a life of service as a physician and surgeon, teacher, author, and missionary.

For eight years Harris served in the United States Army, rising to the rank of major and receiving commendations for his service in West Germany and at the Pentagon. In 1988 Harris left a promising career as an Army doctor to become a medical missionary in Haiti, traveling to the interior to provide medical services to the poor. After nearly four years and five governments, when Haiti became too unstable for foreigners to remain, Harris, his wife Karen, and their three children left on an emergency flight with only what they could carry.

Since then Harris has served as a surgeon in locations around the United States, guided always by his conviction that all people are made in God’s image. Classmate and fellow physician Louisa Chapman nominated Harris, noting in particular his volunteer mentoring of young men, especially men of color. In Iowa Harris volunteered with at-risk youth at Clarinda Academy, where his Bible study class had rival gang members studying side by side. From 2000 to 2006 Harris served on the Macalester Alumni Board.

Harris now has a surgery practice in southwest Virginia, where he is one of only a few surgeons in the largely rural area. Classmate Melvin Collins wrote, "Chuck continually fights to eradicate ignorance relating to critical health issues and broaden access to quality, affordable medical care."