Harry Owen Walker
Feb. 23, 1920 - July 1, 2012
Harry Owen Walker passed away peacefully, after a long illness, at home surrounded by family on Sunday, July 1, 2012. Harry was a Professor at UC Davis in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for more than 40 years.
Harry was born in Monterey and attended high school in Watsonville where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He graduated from UC Davis and served in the Army
Air Corps for four years during World War II
, spending most of the time as a flight engineer instructor. Harry came to Woodland in 1947 to head the Agricultural Department at Woodland High School. He worked full-time and commuted twice a week to UC Berkeley to obtain his doctorate in Curriculum Development.
In 1955, he accepted a teaching position at UC Davis. Harry lectured to students in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources and developed the highly regarded "Classroom in the Sky." He organized this 6 1/2-hour flight carrying 141 UC Davis students and instructors in a jetliner (complete with pilots, stewardesses, and mechanics) over a 2,600 mile trek starting in Sacramento and continuing down the spine of the Sierra to Death Valley, the San Andreas Fault and the Grand Canyon. As the plane spanned the terrain, Harry lectured to the students on what they were seeing below. "A class so far out it literally left the ground." He also led the spectacular "Classroom over Alaska."
Harry had a distinguished career at UC Davis, where he loved to go to work. Along with his teaching responsibilities he also served as an Associate Dean in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Harry was chosen by the UC Davis Academic Staff Organization as its Outstanding Academic Lecturer in 1977. He also received an Outstanding Adviser Award from UC Davis. Harry was a leader in the development of the Exploratory Major Program in the College and served as the Master Adviser for the major for many years.
In 1990, he was chosen to be the Grand Marshal for the UC Davis Picnic Day Parade. This honor was bestowed upon him because of his extraordinary amount of student interaction and support. "Harry Walker is one person who cares." Harry was deeply honored to receive this recognition - his deep interest in California's wilderness, his frequent journeys to many parts of California, his photography skills, his ability to fly planes and his extraordinary points of view and vast amounts of first-hand knowledge of California's terrain that he passed on to thousands of students made him the perfect choice for Grand Marshal.
In addition to this honor, Harry was honored by UC Davis with a court bearing his name, "Harry Walker Court." This dedication was due to his innumerable contributions to the campus that affected the lives of students, especially for his work encouraging and recognizing excellence in student advising and for his leadership in the Exploratory Program. Harry was also very proud of the establishment of the UC Davis Walker Award which honors dedicated staff Advisers nominated by students. In 1993, he received the Award of Distinction from the College, rewarding his outstanding commitment and dedication which strengthened the university during his long career.
Harry received numerous accolades throughout his life including the appointment by then Governor Ronald Reagan to the State Commission for Teacher Preparation and Licensing where he served as chairman for three years. In 1997, Harry was selected the Yolo County Agribusiness Person of the Year.
Harry garnered countless honors, awards, and commendations over the course of his illustrious life including: Member of the Woodland Joint Unified School District's Board of Trustees; Agricultural Adviser to the Ford Foundation (Nicaragua and India); Agricultural Adviser to the Agency for International Development (Panama); Member/Chairman of the Woodland Planning Commission; Board of Directors for the Sheltered Workshop; Yolo County Library Board and the Board of Directors for Children's Home Society. He was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Woodland Clinic and Research Foundation as well as the Woodland Memorial Hospital Corporation's Board of Directors.
Harry was a two-time Woodland mayor serving from 1980-1982 and 1984-1986. He served as a councilman for the city of Woodland from 1978-1986. He served as a director of the California State Water Resources Board for several years.
Through the years, Harry acquired land in Siskiyou County and found time after he retired from UC Davis to fulfill his dream of timber harvesting in an "environmentally correct" manner. He also built two homes in the early part of his life. During the last few years, he handcrafted gorgeous pieces of furniture for his family. Harry's mind was always curious, his heart was always full of kindness, and his generosity was never-ending. He will be sorely missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.
Harry is survived by his wife of 69 years, Eleanor. They were high school sweethearts in Watsonville. He is also survived by four daughters: Janice (Dick) Williamson, Kay (Willie) Miller, Barbara Renteria, and Laurie Walker-Whiteland (Pete); "adopted" son, Michael Campbell; 12 grandchildren: Jennifer/Brian Gaub and Ian Williamson; Joshua and Ruth Freeze; Sara, Gabriel, Michelle, Melissa, and Colin Renteria; and Laura, Andrew and Matthew Whiteland. He is also survived by seven great-grandchildren, former son-in-law, Raul Renteria, and numerous close and wonderful friends.
If you desire, donations can be made to the newly established Harry O. Walker Scholarship Fund in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Please make your donation payable to the UC Davis Foundation and send to Christine Schmidt, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA, 95616-5270.
A celebration of life will be held at the UC Davis Alumni Center (AGR Hall) on Friday, July 13, 2012, at 11:30 a.m.