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Elwyn Don Harris

Elwyn Don Harris Obituary
Harris, Elwyn Don
Dr. Elwyn Harris, 76, died on Monday, October 5, at his home in Culver City, California. Elwyn was born on October 1, 1933 just outside Kansas City, Missouri. He earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1955 from the University of Kansas, and was immediately recruited by North American Aviation's Rocketdyne Division in Los Angeles, where the Space Age was under way. Elwyn went on to earn his M.S. in nuclear engineering from UCLA in 1960, and in 1962 he joined The RAND Corporation, the Santa-Monica-based "think tank" where some of the seminal documents of the Space Age had just been produced. Elwyn received his PHD from the RAND Graduate Institute in 1978. His first report for RAND, published the year he began, was on the use of liquid hydrogen to fuel NASA's rockets. Elwyn spent the next 42 years at RAND, making important contributions as both a researcher and manager for research programs and becoming a Senior Policy Analyst.
As a research director at RAND, Elwyn worked on projects for all three branches of the U.S. Military as well as NASA and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), addressing a wide range of concerns, including strategic defense, arms control, satellite communications, space policy and the acquisition of information systems. As a principal investigator and project leader, he helped to evaluate major space-based development programs for the Air Force, to synethesize the findings of NASA's study on manned missions to Mars, and to provide guidance on the Army's evolving use of space-based assets, among many projects over four decades of research spanning the Space Age, the Cold War and the beginning of the post-Cold War era. He also worked on many studies involving complex interdisciplinary analyses, where the broad foundation of his skills allowed him to help shape the development and application of new technologies to meet larger strategic goals.
Elwyn's rigorous and inspired scientific intelligence was grounded in great religious faith, unfailing kindness and a gentleness of spirit that never ceased to amaze his friends and colleagues. Soft-spoken by nature, he was also possessed of a dry and whimsical humor. It gets to the very heart of Elwyn's character to note that he was known to hurry back from briefings in Washington in order to park cars at his church's benefit musicale, something he did for 20 years straight. Elwyn enjoyed hiking in the High Sierras, rafting down the Grand Canyon and playing softball. He was a gifted and exhibited painter of modernist canvases that showed his appreciation of Van Gogh, Klee and Matisse.
Elwyn is survived by his loving wife of 24 years, Susan, his two daughters, Sonia Taylor and Cynthia Stange, his grandchildren, Max and Emma, and his sister, Charlotte, and brother, Max.
The memorial service will be held on Sunday, October 18, at 3:00 p.m. at Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.
In lieu of flowers, donation in his memory can be made to P.A.T.H. (People Assisting the Homeless), 340 N. Madison, LA, CA 90004. or the RAND Alumni Association, 1776 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Published in the Los Angeles Times from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17, 2009
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