Barbara Harris has never missed a Skyhawks basketball home game. Fifteen years ago, as she recalls, she got her first season pass and has been cheering in the stands ever since. On June 11, the applause was all for her. Fort Lewis College and the FLC Foundation hosted an event acknowledging her stalwart support of student athletes and celebrating her significant gift of $100,000 to the Foundation. It was attended by College staff, the Foundation Board, community members and friends of Harris, and President Tom Stritikus.
“FLC is very grateful for and inspired by Barbara’s connectedness and mission to make a difference for so many groups and students on campus,” said Stritikus.
Harris, keeps close connections with more than just FLC athletics. Her son’s work as an engineer led her to get involved with Village Aid Project, and she has been tuned into KDUR from the station’s start—she remembers hanging an antenna high up a wall in an old Durango apartment to catch the signal. Additionally, Harris has worked extensively with the Environmental Center, particularly its recycling program, as well as El Centro de Muchos Colores through her work as a volunteer at the local nonprofit Compañeros.
Harris’ gift is split between these programs and men’s and women’s basketball, cycling, and women’s softball. Her gift will help with programming costs and scholarships.
"I feel that that is our job, to make our society better, and our future better through our students because they’ll be running the world."
Harris’ husband, Cecil J. Gardipe, was recruited by Don Whalen in 1965 to play basketball for FLC, and the subsequent move to Durango changed her life. Harris took night classes at the college while juggling two jobs and raising two kids. The couple ultimately split, but Harris stayed in Durango and connected to FLC. She continued taking night classes while training into a sales and accounting career. Harris took a job in Denver for a brief time but returned for good to the community she cares for most.
“It’s worth it, every penny and then some. I love it here, it’s a pleasure and an honor to live in this area,” she says. “And Fort Lewis College is such a positive factor in the community of Durango. The learning, the entertainment, everything put together is a big plus for the community.”
Harris moved back to take a temporary position in finance at FLC, which prepared her for a permanent job with the Department of Revenue based out of Durango. Her relationship with FLC continued: she married alumnus Greg Harris (Political Science, ’74), her son Cecil P. Gardipe had a football scholarship and graduated in 1986 with degrees in Music and Psychology, and in 1990 she joined the Foundation board where she served on various committees for 14 years. She now helps manage three scholarships her family established at FLC, the E. Richard Anesi Scholarship, Greg Harris Scholarship, and Cecil Gardipe Scholarship.
Further into her retirement, she’s enjoying learning more about and exploring the world (Cuba is her favorite place) and the ways to make it better.
“For the donors who are interested in the future of our country and students’ successful futures, it’s up to us now to help them financially. I do believe in helping our society in any way that we can contribute, and everyone has something different to contribute. I like to contribute to their education and their way of thinking, to help them open up the box and be open to new things.”
At the event, players from the women’s softball team suggested to Harris that her next involvement could be as their pitching coach. She then demonstrated her wind up and release to cheers from the group. Not such a crazy idea for someone devoted to eclectic ideas and the students of FLC.
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