James T. Harris III

James T. Harris III

President, University of San Diego and Chair, CASE Board of Trustees
University of San Diego


James T. Harris III became the University of San Diego's fourth president on August 3, 2015. Throughout his academic career, he has worked closely with cross-discipline teams to spearhead new civic and community engagements, connecting academic environments with intractable issues faced by society.

Previously, he served for 13 years as the president of Widener University. He initiated and oversaw the establishment of the Chester Higher Education Council, a consortium of a diverse group of colleges and universities dedicated to improving access to higher education for students from underserved populations. Under his leadership, Widener opened the Widener Partnership Charter School, the state's first university-based charter school and developed other programs to engage the community. During his tenure, the university completed its largest campaign, achieved the highest undergraduate enrollment in its history, improved the retention and graduate rates of students, and achieved national recognition for its work in civic engagement.

Prior to his appointment at Widener, he was the president of Defiance College, where he established the McMaster School for the Advancement of Humanity and developed a service-learning program that was ranked among the top 25 in the country.

The span of his career includes volunteer leadership service in numerous local, state and national roles. In recognition of his considerable contributions to education and the communities he has served,Harris is the recipient of many awards and honors, including leadership awards from the NAACP for his work on defending civil rights. Earlier in his career, he was named by the John Templeton Foundation as one of the Top 50 Character-Building Presidents in America, and in 2011, he received the Chief Executive Leadership Award from CASE. Defiance College recognized him in 2002 with its highest recognition, the Pilgrim Award; and Widener University bestowed upon him the lifetime title of President Emeritus in 2015. In 2014, he was recognized with the College and University Public Relations and Associated Professionals' Ciervo Award, presented to one who exemplifies the association's fundamental purposes of supporting and advancing the understanding of higher education.

Harris earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Toledo, a master's degree in educational administration from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in education from Pennsylvania State University. All three of his alma maters have recognized him for his leadership in education and in 2013, The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees named him a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor the university bestows upon a graduate.