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Jan. 19, 2018
Friends and family of Dr. Patrick Harr and the late Dr. John Harr packed the lower level of the Lamkin Activity Center Jan. 13 as Northwest Missouri State University renamed its Student-Athlete Academic Center in honor of their 79 years of service to the institution.
Now known as the Harr Athletic Success Center, the facility’s renaming honors Patrick’s 40-plus years of service as a volunteer physician for Northwest athletic teams, setting lasting examples for the Maryville community and its student-athletes. His father, John, was a member of the Northwest faculty from 1944 until 1979 and made impacts as chair of the history department and as the Homecoming faculty chairman.
|Dr. Patrick Harr addresses a crowd gathered for a ceremony formally renaming the Student-Athlete Academic Center in honor of him and his father. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)|
“It’s a huge honor,” Patrick said. “Dad’s focus was being big on academics and to push kids to reach their full potential, and if this center helps an athlete make it through their academic stresses, then that’s a big plus.”
Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski called the dedication a celebration of academics, athletics, family, legacy, service, performance and excellence. While the connection of John and Patrick Harr to Northwest spans nearly 80 years, the Harr family’s combined total of years spent enrolled at Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School and in college coursework at the University, teaching on the campus or in direct service to the institution amounts to more than 170 years.
Further, Jasinski said the total value of Patrick’s service to Northwest as a volunteer physician is estimated at more than $1 million. The family, meanwhile, has agreed to contribute $50,000 in support of the building of the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse.
Northwest’s Board of Regents, of which Patrick is chair, approved the renaming of the academic center in October. Jasinski noted the naming recommendation was a surprise to Harr and the vote, in which he did not participate, was unanimous.
Northwest converted the academic center from a fitness center after the 2015 opening of the Robert and Virginia Foster Fitness Center. A leisure lounge for student-athletes with couches, tables, chairs and TVs, the space is outfitted with Northwest branding and banners while providing an area for student-athletes to study and socialize.
|Former Northwest student-athlete Kelsey Lacy discusses the advantages of the academic center. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)|
Kelsey Lacy, a former Northwest student-athlete who now works as a success coach for the University’s Student-Athlete Success Program, said she already is seeing the benefits of the facility. Lacy works with student-athletes on an individual basis and helps connect them with academic resources to assist them in their coursework.
“The response from our student-athletes, having this resource closer, was overwhelming,” she said. “This space provides athletes the same opportunity as the Student Success Center in the library, where they may or may not have had time to go back and forth between practice, weights, film, et cetera. They have all really enjoyed this space and our services closer to where they spend the majority of their time.”
What follows is the Harr story, as told by Patrick and through remarks provided at Saturday’s dedication.
The Harr family overcame the most arduous of journeys to get to Maryville. In later years, when the Harr children were caught causing trouble, Helen would say, “If you just remembered what I went through to get here,” Patrick recalled.
During the early months of 1944, John and Helen Harr were expecting their first child when John accepted a coveted faculty position at Northwest. With Patrick, the oldest of their three sons and one daughter, coming in August, the couple began a trek across the country from their home in Washington state to Maryville. They sustained several flat tires along their route and exhausted their allotted tire rations, causing them to spend hours stuck on the highway.
“During the war, you couldn’t get new tires. You just got retreads,” Patrick said. “I know Mom used to say that they had nine or 10 flats, I don’t know. At that point, I wouldn’t have kept count anyway. I would have just said, ‘The hell with Missouri. We’re just going to stop right here, and we’re going to put our roots down here.”
But the Harr family’s Midwestern roots were deep. Both Wisconsin natives, Helen earned a two-year degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to become an English teacher and John graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. A football, basketball and track athlete, John held the long jump record at La Crosse for decades and is a member of that university’s athletics hall of fame.
John's graduate work took him to the University of Chicago, where he earned his Ph.D. in Civil War reconstruction on his way to teaching a couple years in Illinois. He spent two years in the U.S. Army, stationed in Pullman, Washington, from 1942 to 1944, and the Harrs headed to Maryville during the summer of ’44.
“Just like the many students who come here as part of their journey, the Harr family recognized in this institution a commitment to excellence in education and a real potential for leadership, and that was really the perfect combination for our dynamic family,” Patrick’s daughter, Traci Harr Kennedy, said.
Helen Harr became a homemaker rather than build a career as a professional educator but always found other avenues to teach. Her Faculty Dames group played bridge together for more than 50 years, and she rarely missed an opportunity for grammar lessons during card games with her grandchildren.
“The thing about Grandma was she was a strict grammarian, and if you used the wrong pronoun, the wrong verb or something, she would correct you right on the spot,” Patrick said of his mother. “All of our kids grew up having an English lesson every time they played cards.”
|Dr. Harmon Mothershead shares his memories of the late Dr. John Harr. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)
Dr. Harmon Mothershead knew John Harr as a student, graduating from Northwest in 1949, and as a faculty member, having taught in the history department with him from 1965 until Harr retired in 1979. Mothershead retired from the University in 1996.
“He liked to be in personal contact with people,” Mothershead said. “He liked to come around to the people’s offices. He liked to sit and talk to you for five minutes. He didn’t stay much longer than that. He liked to be involved in what you were doing.”
An avid – some said rabid – fisherman, Harr often spent weekends fishing with Northwest administrators Dr. Leon Miller and Dr. Chuck Thate. Mothershead also recalled how Harr allowed his faculty mailbox to fill and then seemed to take pleasure in tossing the unread mail over his shoulder into a cardboard box. “He would go through those envelopes and he would throw them, one at a time,” Mothershead said. “One day, I said, ‘John, don’t you think you really ought to look at those? There might be something important.’ He said, ‘If it’s important they’ll send me another one.’”
On a daily basis, Harr wore a pair of slacks, a shirt, a tie that usually was not tied well, and a sport coat with papers spilling from the pockets. He also carried a pipe.
“I think he carried that for all 15 years that I knew him, and it looked terrible the first time I saw it,” Mothershead said. “The end was bitten off of it. The stem was broken where it fastened to the pipe, and he had it taped with Scotch tape. Eventually, even the bowl cracked. Now, if you’ve ever been a pipe smoker you know that you can’t smoke a pipe in that shape, but he would still stuff it with tobacco, light it up. It wouldn’t burn for very long, and it would go out and he’d put it in his pocket, and I imagine Helen got upset a few times.”
Patrick added, “Half the time, driving down the road, those cinders would drop on the seat and the seat would start on fire. It would drive my mother crazy. She lived to be 97 and never drove a car a day in her life, so it was always up to Dad to get us somewhere.”
Mothershead praised John Harr’s fair evaluations of faculty and the autonomy he allowed them.
“His impression on my life was that he left me alone to do what I could do and what I wanted to do,” Mothershead said. “He didn’t interfere with it. He didn’t really advise me to do things. That wasn’t his way. If I went to him with a question about something, he would answer it. That was it. We didn’t carry on a long conversation.”
|Dr. John Harr was a member of the Northwest faculty from 1944 until 1979 and made impacts as chair of the history department and as the Homecoming faculty chairman. (Northwest Missouri State University Archives)|
In 1947, John Harr agreed to chair Northwest’s Homecoming activities, and the University’s modern day Homecoming week was born. The Variety Show and house decorations were added to the festivities while the parade grew to include more marching bands, large floats, jalopies and clowns. The week ended with a Homecoming dance featuring big bands.
Harr enlisted the help of faculty, student groups, Student Senate and the Greek community to build floats, decorate houses and create skits and songs for the newly introduced Variety Show. The two-day Homecoming celebration also included a queen contest, pep rally and bonfire.
“The first year I was here, I got here in like the third week of August, and I was immediately put on one of the three Homecoming committees,” Mothershead said. “As a matter of fact, I was put in charge of one of the three Homecoming committees. I didn’t know what Homecoming was, I didn’t go to Homecoming when I was here, but John immediately got us involved in our duties.”
The Variety Show, staged in the Administration Building’s now-gone theater, was a must-see event. “Everyone always wanted to go the first night before anything got axed by the president or the dean,” Patrick said.
In addition to overseeing Homecoming, John Harr was a faculty sponsor for Kappa Delta Pi, the social science club, pre-law club and the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. He also remained active with athletic department and operated the clock at Lamkin Gymnasium.
“His philosophy was, being a teacher at the University extended beyond the classroom, and he always felt strongly that your interactions with students outside the classroom were extremely important,” Patrick said. “Through his involvement with Homecoming, he interfaced with hundreds of students.
John Harr became the chair of Northwest’s history department and had a third-floor office cut out of one of the Administration Building’s turrets. Patrick, who began attending Horace Mann at age 4, often spent his afterschool time watching film clips about the Civil War and other history topics in his father’s nearby classroom as John finished his work. During later years, Patrick helped grade his father’s multiple choice tests.
Other academic buildings like Colden Hall, the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building and the Garrett-Strong Science Building had not yet been built, so the Administration Building – or Academic Hall, as it was known – was the hub for Northwest coursework. As a child attending Horace Mann and then as a youth growing up in Maryville, Patrick had an intimate view of the college’s growth and progress. He watched the construction of the J.W. Jones Student Union as well as Colden, Garrett-Strong and the Fine Arts Building.
John quickly became a friend of Ryland Milner, a legend in Northwest athletics history, and volunteered to coach with Milner during the Bearcat football team’s 1944 run. That team went 7-0 and consisted mostly of players attending Northwest as part of United States Navy V-12 training program, a World War II initiative of President Franklin Roosevelt to educate officer candidates and prepare them for service as naval officers.
As John and Ryland formed a strong bond, so did their small sons, who regularly ran the football field together. Tragically, though, Jimmie Milner was struck by a car on Main Street and killed at the age of 4 in November 1948. “When we had nap time, we were always side by side, and his cot was empty,” Patrick said. “I remember saying, ‘Where’s Jimmie?’ ‘Well, he’s not going to be here today.’”
Patrick spent the majority of the first 16 years of his life on the Northwest campus. His Horace Mann classmates were the sons and daughters of faculty members, academic deans and coaches. The children developed strong friendships that continue today as adults.
“I think the unique experience that we had at Horace Mann has continued today,” Patrick said. “You have lots of student teachers, and a lot of times it was one-on-one or small groups, and they’ve still done that today. I think that’s the strength of the Horace Mann legacy.”
After school and during weekends, Patrick and his buddies usually could be found in the Martindale Gym, playing basketball. Dr. H.D. Peterson coached the Bearcat basketball team, which meant his son, Donnie, and Patrick enjoyed easy access to the gym. Sometimes, the custodian scolded them for ruining the freshly mopped floor and charged them with mopping it again when they finished.
And when Lamkin Gymnasium opened in late 1959, it was Harr and the Horace Mann High School boys basketball team – not the Bearcats – who played the first basketball game there.
“We played in Martindale like the University did and then we came down to Lamkin to have some practices for it,” Patrick said. “We had our first game and they were still painting the walls. I was a sophomore and by the time you got done with practice, your head was pounding from the paint fumes.”
But in May 1960, to the chagrin of its students, teachers and the campus community, Northwest made the difficult decision to close its Horace Mann High School.
“That was a bitter day,” Patrick said, but added that he believes it was the start of the University and Maryville communities forging a stronger relationship. “I think when everybody started going to Maryville High, that was the beginning of really kind of tying the University and the town together. … Then it just morphed into what it is today.”
When Patrick enrolled at Northwest for the fall of 1962, he joined its largest freshman class to that point. He joined the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity and was a member of the Union Board, which organized dances on Monday nights in the lower level of the Student Union, known then as the Bearcat Den.
“Out of the Student Union fund, we’d feed the jukebox for a couple hours, hour and a half,” he said. “We’d get kids to interact together.”
Patrick also made up his mind quickly after starting college at Northwest that he wasn’t following his father’s path into the history field and chose to study pre-medical science.
“I decided after about two weeks at Northwest I was not going to go into history and compete with my dad,” he said. “That was a lose-lose situation. So I decided to go into medicine, and that way we could each have our own fields of achievement and we wouldn’t have to argue over things.”
He drew inspiration from Maryville doctor Dr. E.D. Imes and talked to him about becoming a physician. One day late in his sophomore year at Northwest, Patrick went home for lunch and informed his mother of his decision to leave Maryville.
“I just said, ‘Well I’ve made up my mind. This fall, I’m going to transfer to Mizzou, and I’m going to med school.’ And my mom really didn’t say much,” Patrick remembered. “That evening, we had a little discussion at supper and my dad said, ‘Now, why in the world would you want to do something like that? He was not very happy.”
Patrick Harr’s introduction to the pre-med track at the University of Missouri-Columbia was organic chemistry, physics, comparative anatomy, art appreciation and French composition course. After struggling to write a one-page autobiography in French, Harr connected with a tutor from Maryville who was struggling in her chemistry course. “So I tutored her in chemistry and she tutored me in French, and we both ended up doing well,” Patrick said.
Later during his first year in Columbia, he was reviewing his course schedule and progress with his academic advisor, who encouraged him to consider applying for medical school. Harr, who hadn’t given it any thought until that conversation, completed an application and sent it via air mail to ensure it was submitted before a deadline. He interviewed for a spot, kept his grades up and was accepted to begin the program during the fall of 1965.
Interestingly, Harr accumulated nearly 300 academic hours by the time he graduated from the University of Missouri with his medical degree in the spring of 1969. But he lacked a couple English credits and a humanities credit, so he never completed the bachelor’s degree he started at Northwest.
Determined to return to Maryville to practice in the relatively new field of family medicine, Harr considered attending a handful of medical programs throughout the country and eventually landed in Rochester, New York, on the advice of his academic advisor. “That was probably the best choice I made because of my instructors in that program,” he said. “All but one became nationally known program directors in their own right. So to be on the ground floor of a brand new specialty and have physicians of that caliber, it was kind of meant to be.”
Harr designed his residency program, including optional rotations focused on obstetrics and surgery, with the idea of learning and developing the skills he needed to be a successful family physician in his hometown of Maryville. From Rochester, he entered the U.S. Air Force in 1972 and continued to build his knowledge as chief of clinical services at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.
Fulfilling a promise he made to himself and others, Harr returned to Maryville in 1974. “There’s always the tug of the University, and I wanted my kids to go to Horace Mann,” he said. “I’d lived in a big city, Rochester. I’d been at an Air Force Base near Miami, and I knew I didn’t want any part of a big town. There was a need, so I really never gave anywhere else a consideration.”
In all of his schooling, though, Harr didn’t have the opportunity to try a sports medicine rotation. Harr had been back in Maryville for hours when he attended a Maryville High School football game. A Maryville player was hurt and coaches called for a doctor in the crowd.
“There wasn’t anybody so I thought, ‘Well, guess it’s me. So I trot out on the field,” he said. “We tended to the kid and he got on the bus, and they said, ‘Well, can he play the second half?’ and I said, ‘No, he’s done for the night.’ I thought, ‘Well, ok, here we go.’”
Harr accepted an invitation to visit the high school on Wednesday afternoons and assess student-athletes – a volunteer role he continued for 38 years. Not long after that, Northwest also extended an invitation that started with him assisting the women’s athletic teams and eventually expanding his role to help the men’s teams as well.
Harr’s service was supported by his children Elizabeth, Lori, Nicholas and Traci and matched by his wife, Teri, a registered nurse whose impact also is felt across the community. Nick was a member of the Bearcat football team and earned his bachelor’s degree at Northwest in 2003.
“We grew up on the sidelines and in the locker rooms, and Dad’s really been there through the defeats to really have a great appreciation for the glory,” Traci Harr Kennedy said. “We can picture our dad kneeling beside a student-athlete in both those times of glory and defeat.”
|Mel Tjeerdsma talks about Dr. Patrick Harr's passion for athletics and taking care of student-athletes. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)
Mel Tjeerdsma shared the sidelines and developed a friendship with Harr during his 17 years as head coach of the Bearcat football team and now as Northwest’s director of athletics. Tjeerdsma commended Harr’s undeniable passion for Bearcat athletics and the pride he shows for student-athletes.
“I always feel like if there’s somebody that I want to know, if there’s something I want to know about a team, I can go to Doc and ask him because he can tell you what the heartbeat is of that team,” Tjeerdsma said. “He’s around them. He feels it, and that’s really important.”
Tjeerdsma added, “He loves every one of those student-athletes like he loves his children, and he wants the best for them – not just here, not just as athletes, but he wants the best for them when they leave here. We have covered a lot of years, so when we travel together, yeah, we talk about games and stuff like that, but we talk a lot about the student-athletes and what they’re doing with their lives afterward. I know for him and for me that’s what’s really important.”
|Dr. Patrick Harr has served Northwest athletics teams for more than 40 years as a volunteer physician, setting lasting examples for the Maryville community and its student-athletes. (Northwest Missouri State University photo)|
During his tenure with Bearcat athletics, Northwest’s training facility has expanded from the size of a faculty office with only a couple taping tables to the fully equipped David "DC" & Susan Colt Athletic Training Room, which is named for his close friend and Northwest’s head athletic trainer for 27 years.
He’s watched Northwest develop a concussion protocol that is “years ahead of anybody.” He’s also had the opportunity to work with and mentor 100 graduate assistants in the athletic training program.
“They ask a lot of questions,” he said. “They push your knowledge base because they ask questions, and then you’re like, ‘Aw man, I don’t know anything about that,’ so then you’ve got to go research it. It’s a two-way street; you learn so much from the kids who have their hands on the athlete every day.”
Harr also earned the trust of coaches, who did not challenge him when he believed a student-athlete was not ready to return to action.
“I know I’ve disappointed a lot of athletes because I said, ‘No, you’re not ready to go,” Harr said. “If I didn’t have such a great group of GAs and athletic trainers, my job would be totally impossible. We work together as a team for the betterment of our kids. When you’re an athlete, you want to play … and you have to trust the people that are telling you to wait, and that’s hard to do.”
He added, “To the coaches, they have the confidence that I could figure out what was going on and help the athletic trainers to get the kids back without saying, ‘We need that kid for Saturday, and there’s no reason he can’t be there.’ It’s never happened at Northwest. That happens at other place, but it doesn’t happen at Northwest.”
Harr retired as a practicing physician in 2012, but he wasn’t finished serving Northwest. He continues to volunteer as a physician for Northwest athletics teams, and in 2013, after a faculty member urged him to apply for an open seat, Harr was appointed to the University’s Board of Regents. The Board elected him to become its chair in 2015.
“I’m so proud of this Board,” he said, noting the Board has made strides in approving new academic programs and facility upgrades with limited resources and without a full nine-member Board.
“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot,” Harr said. “We have a group that loves the University and are dedicated to the University, and I think it’s helped push the University in the direction it’s going.”
He says he is proudest of molding a positive relationship with Northwest administrators in order to work together for the good of the University.
“We don’t always agree with things,” Patrick said. “I think it’s the willingness of this Board to take the extra time at our work sessions where we really can dig deep into issues. If you go into an open session, you’d think, ‘These guys are a bunch of clowns. They just vote yes, and we’re done.’ People don’t realize all the arguing and discourse comes in the committee meetings, and the basis for our decision really comes a lot from our work sessions, where we’ll spend a half day or a whole day really looking at the deep cuts into things to understand the direction we’re going and whether to take that next step.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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