New fund, renamed lab to honor long-time professor, leader Michael Harris

Ellsworth native dedicated 40 years of service to alma mater

Michael Harris UWRFMarch 30, 2021 – Michael Harris, Ph.D., a UW-River Falls alumnus who went on to dedicate more than four decades to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls as an admired and respected professor, researcher, department chair and dean, will soon be recognized in two significant ways: a new fund and a renamed lab in his honor.

UW-River Falls Interim Chancellor Connie Foster has announced the launch of a fundraising campaign for the Dr. Michael Harris Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) Opportunity Fund which will provide critical resources for a variety of CSD priorities and needs. The campaign will also result in the renaming of one of the CSD’s research areas as the Dr. Mike Harris Augmentative and Alternative Communication Lab.

“I am delighted to announce this special recognition for Mike, along with UWRF’s sincere appreciation for all he has done for his alma mater over the course of one of the longest and most successful tenures in the nearly 150-year history of our great institution,” Foster said. “Mike has left a lasting imprint at UWRF, and his decades of unselfish service and leadership will not be forgotten.”

Harris, who arrived at River Falls as an undergraduate in 1974, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UWRF. He earned his doctoral degree in educational psychology-special education from the University of Minnesota. During his UWRF career, Harris became a respected and recognized leader in the field of communication disorders as he served as professor, chair of CSD, and dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. He retired Dec. 30, 2020.

Harris’s new UWRF honor was met with accolades from his former colleagues.

“During his 40-plus years at UWRF, from undergraduate, to part-time instructor, to professor, to department chair, to Dean, Mike has been a quiet leader on campus,” said UWRF Professor and Administration Emerita Faye Perkins, who is leading the Harris campaign’s fundraising effort. “Day in and day out, Mike put the needs of his students, faculty, staff and the university above his own needs. He humbly exemplifies the meaning of ‘servant leader’ and his integrity is beyond reproach. I am grateful that Mike and I were colleagues at UWRF and will forever be thankful for his friendship.”

“It’s impossible to capture the impact that Mike’s service, skills and leadership have had on so many,” said UWRF CSD Clinical Professor Sarah Smits. “In his work as a speech pathologist specializing in augmentative and alternative communication, he has literally given voices to those who had none. As a colleague and mentor, he taught me advocacy—for myself, our clients, our students, and our program. Our program and college were fortunate to have had his guidance for 40 years.”

To support the Harris fund, donors may submit tax deductible contributions to the UWRF Foundation at Donors should specify the donation is for the Michael Harris CSD Fund. Checks should be made payable to the UWRF Foundation with Michael Harris CSD Fund indicated in the memo line. Mail to UW-River Falls Foundation, 118 North Hall, 410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls, WI 54022.

For more information, call University Advancement Officer Kellie Burrows at 715-425-4427 or email

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