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HCC pays tribute to Richard and Lois Harrison

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

As self-effacing a couple as Dr. Richard and Lois Harrison are, they are not the type of people to tout their own accomplishments.

On Friday night, however, there were hundreds of people willing to do the honors in a tribute to the Harrisons where they met six decades ago, at Hagerstown Community College.

"I think I'm here tonight because my husband and I have lived so long," Lois Harrison said between greetings to a long line of friends at HCC's Athletic Recreation and Community Center, the gymnasium rendered unrecognizable by a starlight motif. "When you're first, you get a lot of credit for nothing you did other than live so long."

She was referring to being the college's first registrar back in 1946, when it was Hagerstown Junior College. Just returning from military duty after the war, Richard Harrison was among the first 90 or students to enroll, and one of the first 26 graduates in 1948.

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"She's the star ... All I ever did was be a member of the first class," said Richard Harrison, a retired dentist. She also taught his sociology and psychology classes, he said.

"She was responsible for recruiting the first class," said Atlee C. Kepler, former president of the college. "Lois was really the person who knew the community" and recruiting students for that first class, he said.

"What she did for the college is truly invaluable," Kepler said.

Lois Harrison said the thing that amazed her is the growth of the college into an institution that now serves thousands. As a graduate of Hood College in 1945, Harrison also played a role in its growth, serving as chairwoman of its board of directors for 15 years.

"Lois had been president of the alumni association and then became chair of our board of directors in the early 1980s when I was president," former Hood College president Martha E. Church said. "She has just given incredible gifts to (Washington County) hospital, the college and her church."

A dentist for more than 50 years, Richard Harrison also has served his community over the years as a former member of the Washington County Welfare Board and the HJC Foundation Board of Directors. He proudly noted his 45 years of perfect attendance with the Hagerstown Rotary Club.

"They're a team," said their daughter, Margaret Harrison who, like her father, is a dentist. During her mother's recent extended stay in the hospital, Richard Harrison was with her every day, at every meal and often overnight.

"Total and complete devotion," she said.

Granddaughter Hillary Wade, also studying to be a dentist, said she was glad her parents were getting the night of recognition, even if they were somewhat reluctant.

"It's nice she's being pushed into the spotlight," Wade said.

Friday's event raised about $100,000 to benefit the scholarship fund of the HCC Foundation, said Lieba Cohen, HCC's director of institutional advancement.

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