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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Chuck Harris Receives Macalester Catharine Lealtad Award

June 9, 2009 - Dr. Chuck Harris of Rocky Mount, Va., has received Macalester College’s 2009 Catharine Lealtad Service to Society Award.  Harris graduated from Macalester in 1975.

The Catharine Lealtad Award honors a Macalester College alumnus/alumna of color who has used their Macalester education to distinguish themselves in service to community.  The award was established in memory of Catharine Lealtad, class of 1915, and the first African-American graduate of Macalester. She had an admirable career as a physician, in the military and as a medical missionary, and served children and the poor around the world.

Harris graduated from Macalester with a major in biology and the O.T. and Kathryn Walter Award for Excellence in Premed Studies. During this time, Harris had joined the Marines and was going to withdraw from Macalester.  But football coach Don Hudson refused to let him derail his medical career. Hudson connected him with a recruiter who changed Harris’s orders so that he could finish college, earn his medical degree at Howard University, and serve for eight years as an Army doctor.

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 of governmental instability, a coup forced Harris, his wife Karen, and their three children to leave on an emergency flight.

Back in the United States, Harris has continued to live a life of service. In Iowa Harris volunteered with at-risk youth at Clarinda Academy, where his Bible study class had rival gang members studying side by side.

Today, guided by his faith, Harris is a one of a decreasing number of surgeons serving a largely rural population in southwest Virginia. His classmate Melvin Collins wrote, “Chuck is a consummate professional who has service at the core of his existence.  He continually fights to eradicate ignorance relating to critical health issues and broaden access to quality, affordable medical care.”

From 2000 to 2006 Harris served on the Macalester Alumni Board.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,858 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.