Dr. George M. Harmon


Dr. George M. Harmon
retired educator

George M. Harmon, 74, former president of Millsaps College, died Dec. 17, 2008, at Baptist Medical Center after a brief illness.

A funeral mass was said Dec. 20 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison. Interment followed at Wright and Ferguson Parkway Memorial Cemetery on Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland.

The Knights of Columbus Council 9547, of which Dr. Harmon was a member, formed an honor guard for the services. The Fourth and highest rank in the Knights of Columbus was bestowed on him, and he was titled posthumously Sir Knight George Harmon. Pallbearers were Jack Woodward, Randy James, Neil Engelhart, Harper Davis, David Wilkinson, Dan Neely and Gale Galloway. Honorary pallbearers will be the Friday Luncheon Group.

A native of Memphis, Dr. Harmon was an only child. His father died when he was 13, and he helped his mother by sacking groceries and delivering newspapers. He graduated from Memphis Tech High School, where he was an outstanding wrestler. He received scholarship support and worked as a wrestling coach and riverboat deckhand to be able to attend Southwestern at Memphis, now Rhodes College. He played football all four years of college.

Dr. Harmon received a B. A. in economics from Southwestern in 1956 and was named to Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa. He received his MBA from Emory University the following year and went to work for Continental Oil Company in Houston, Texas. He was soon drafted into the military and was stationed in Washington state. He married Bessie Will Porter in 1958, and the family moved to Massachusetts where he completed the doctor of business administration degree in 1963 at Harvard University.

Dr. Harmon began his academic career at Syracuse University teaching business courses. In 1966 he made a career change, joining Planning Research Corporation in Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter, he was offered a position at his alma mater, Southwestern, to direct the Department of Economics and Business Administration.

After seven years there, he became dean of the Division of Business and Management at the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies and moved a year later to be founding dean of the graduate program in the School of Business and Management at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan. From Saginaw, he was named to lead Millsaps College as its ninth president in 1978.

The longest serving president in the history of Millsaps, Dr. Harmon is recognized for many accomplishments the college achieved during his 22-year tenure. Notably, Dr. Harmon led the efforts to establish the Else School of Management, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, and to obtain the first chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in Mississippi. During his administration the college endowment and enrollment enjoyed significant growth, and new construction and landscaping transformed the campus.

Following his retirement from Millsaps in 2000, Dr. Harmon became an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison, where he served as a lector and a member of the finance committee.

Dr. Harmon was a member of the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation board of directors and provided long-time service for Catholic Charities' governance council and program evaluation committee. He chaired the shelter building committee and the 2007 Journey of Hope event. He was a member of the Catholic Foundation board of directors and a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
A member of the Downtown Jackson Rotary Club, Dr. Harmon served on the boards of directors of the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, now the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, and numerous other cultural, civic and business entities. He was an avid lover of athletics and a competitive sportsman.

Dr. Harmon was preceded in death by a daughter, Nancy Ruth Harmon and a grandson, Patrick Andrew Beatty.

Survivors include: wife of nearly 50 years, Bessie Harmon; daughters Mary Harmon Beatty of Sydney, Australia, and Elizabeth Harmon Davison of Ridgeland; on, George M. Harmon III of Waco, Texas; and 10 grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to George Harmon Memorial Fund, St. Anthony Catholic School, 4000 Tidewater Lane, Madison, MS 39110; Catholic Charities, P. O. Box 2248, Jackson, MS 39225-2248; or the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation for St. Catherine's Village, 969 Lakeland Drive, Jackson, MS 39216.