2018 FoundersDay Hero Image

The 21st Annual Harris Award

The Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award is presented each year by Washington University to honor a St. Louis couple who contribute in an outstanding manner to the culture and welfare of the greater St. Louis community.
This award was established through a generous bequest from a longtime community supporter and advocate, the late Jane Freund Harris. Renowned for their remarkable generosity, compassion, and dedication, Jane and her husband, Whitney Harris, exemplified the best qualities of service to fellow citizens. This award encourages other St. Louis couples to follow in their footsteps.
Michael Loynd, LW '99, chairs the award selection committee. Each fall, the committee considers nominations submitted from the St. Louis community. Harris Award recipients are honored with a cash gift made in their name to the St. Louis–area charitable organizations of their choice.

About Jane and Whitney

There is no greater example of devoted service to the people of St. Louis than the late Jane and Whitney Harris. During their lifetimes, Jane and Whitney were well known for their support of civic and charitable organizations throughout the metropolitan area. Jane, also known as the “Orchid Lady” because she sported a home-grown orchid in her hair, served in leadership positions for numerous local institutions, among them Fontbonne University, the St. Louis Symphony Society, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Harrises were the guiding force behind countless charitable activities, lending their time and talents to everything from HopeHouse International to the Judevine Center for Autism.
Their interest in and support of Washington University was broad-based as well. Across the years, the Harrises contributed to the University Libraries, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the Brown School, the Danforth Scholars Program, Edison Theatre, and the Friends of Music Scholarship Program. They were members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, and Jane was a member of the Washington University Women’s Society.
Perhaps their most notable gift to Washington University was the Whitney Robson Harris Collection on the Third Reich, housed in the Jane and Whitney Harris Reserve Reading Room in Olin Library. Whitney donated his personal collection, which included memoirs detailing his experience during the Nuremberg Trials, titled Tyranny on Trial (1954). As a young naval officer assigned to the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA), Whitney served on the American team involved in the trial of Nazi war criminals.
After leaving military service, Whitney taught law at Southern Methodist University. He then worked as a lawyer for Southwestern Bell before joining the St. Louis law firm of Sumner Harris and Sumner. He retired from the firm in 1965, but he remained very active in community affairs, joining his wife in assisting virtually every civic, cultural, educational, and charitable group in St. Louis.
In recognition of Whitney’s lifelong achievement in the field of international justice and his support of legal education and research, Washington University named its Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute in his honor.


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