Stephen L. Harris (1937 - 2019)

  • "I attended CSUS in the late 70's and took Dr Harris' course..."
    - Steve A.
  • "I took Stephen's class in volcanoes at CSUS and I have his..."
    - Michael Norris
Service Information
Celebration of Life
Saturday, Jul. 20, 2019
11:00 AM
St.Paul's Lutheran Church
2958 59th Street
Sacramento, CA
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Obituary

Stephen L. Harris, Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies, and an active member of the campus community, has died. Steve was born in Aberdeen, WA on February 5, 1937 and died of cancer in Sacramento on April 14, 2019 at the age of 82. In childhood, he was mentored by his Grandfather Louis Harris, who hiked with him in the Cascade Mountains in Western Washington, and taught him to love and understand the mountains and the outdoors. He grew up in the Tacoma, Washington area, where he went to Lincoln High School. In 1959, Steve graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in history. He received a Woodrow Wilson scholarship to pursue graduate studies in English literature at Cornell University. In 1964, Steve earned his Ph.D. from Cornell. After a year of teaching at Washington State University, Pullman, he accepted a position in the English Department at CSUS in 1965. He was one of a small group of interdisciplinary scholars who founded the Humanities and Religious Studies Department in the early 1970s. Steve served twice as chair of the Department. In 1996, Steve chaired the committee that planned the division of the School of Arts and Sciences into three colleges: Arts and Letters, Science and Mathematics, and Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. He retired from CSUS in 2001, after 36 years of service to the University. In retirement, he continued as a member of the Retirees' Association and the Retirees' Book Club. Steve wrote a number of successful textbooks as well as articles and essays, recognized nationally and abroad. He became the leading authority worldwide on the Cascade Mountain Range, and remained so all his life. His books Fire and Ice, Fire Mountains of the West, and Agents of Chaos, among others, went through many editions. He developed a deep interest in the Bible its place in history, its meaning and message, along with critical analyses and updates. He wrote best-selling texts on the subject, including The New Testament, Understanding the Bible, Exploring the Bible, and, with co-author Dr. Robert Platzner, The Old Testament. The New Testament will be issued in its 9th edition this year. His Biblical texts have become classics in the field, and have been adopted in most Religious Studies courses in the U.S. Classical Mythology, Images and Insights, with co-author Dr. Gloria Platzner, went through five editions, and became another classic for college students. Steve wrote several beautiful "coffee table" books for The National Geographic Society, including The Restless Earth and The Wonders of the World. He contributed numerous articles to such journals as "Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History," "Oregon Historical Society," and "Open Spaces: Views from the Northwest," in which he discussed the Cascadia subduction zone, the most active peaks in the Cascade Range, and Native American literature. He predicted the eruption of Mt. St Helens in his book Fire and Ice and more specifically only weeks before it occurred, which led reporters from around the world to interview him. He became an authority on an early Oregon author, Frederick Homer Balch, author of Bridge of the Gods, a retelling of Indian lore of the Pacific Northwest, and his explorations of Balch's life and work restored the writer to public interest. In total, Steve wrote or co-wrote some eleven classic college texts, along with numerous essays for scholarly journals, and articles for popular books and magazines. His was a life characterized by a driving work ethic and a great love of knowledge in many areas. He leaves behind a loving family and a devoted circle of loyal friends who shared his love of music, humanities and the arts, history, and great literature, in addition to a lifelong zest for the great outdoors. He hiked most of the principal peaks of the Cascade range, and many other mountains in the U.S. In 1965 the same year he married Marjorie Miller, whom he met as a graduate student at Cornell University he climbed his first Cascade peak, Mount Saint Helens. Mount Saint Helens played a significant role in Steve's life as a writer and enthusiast of the Cascades. When St. Helens erupted in 1980, because Steve's excellent book was not only the only one on the Cascade Volcanoes, but he had also predicted Mount Saint Helens would be the next Cascade volcano to erupt, he was invited to appear on several radio and television programs, including ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel. He later climbed Saint Helens after it had settled down as well. You can find more about his work at http://stephenharrisauthor.com/about-the-books/ In August 1994 at the age of 57, Stephen ascended Mount Rainier 14, 410 feet the highest of the Cascade volcanoes which had loomed on the Eastern horizon during Steve's childhood in Grays Harbor County. Stephen's love of the Pacific Northwest was one of the attractions for moving to California and teaching at CSUS where he had access to many trips to Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, and northwards to the heart of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. Survivors include his two sons, Geoffrey and Jason; his grandchildren, Kevin Harris, 18, whom Steve raised to age 15; and April Venckus, 8, children of Geoffrey Harris; and Isaac Harris, 8 months, son of Jason Harris; and in addition, Steve's sister, Karen and her two sons, and several cousins. He was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie Harris,and his parents, Glenn and Ruby Harris of Tacoma, Washington. A celebration of Steve's life is being planned by the family for July 20, 2019, to start at 11 AM at St.Paul's Lutheran Church, 2958 59th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95817. Phone: 916-456-8523.
Published in The Sacramento Bee on June 23, 2019
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