Building Blocks for Family and Community


09/30/2019

Fred and Teresa (Simon) Harris

In his youth, Fred Harris '93 MBA was a great run blocker for future St. Ambrose Athletic Director Jim Fox's highly successful Davenport Central High School Blue Devils football teams.

As an adult, Harris opened paths that helped his wife, Teresa (Simon) Harris '82, '87 MBA carry the ball across the goal line. A few years later, Teresa did the same for Fred.

Together, the Harrises have spent their married life serving as building blocks for the futures of their children and, with equal passion, their wider community.

Teresa was working as an administrative assistant at Deere & Company when she realized she was capable of so much more.

"When I started, my goal was to be an executive secretary," she said, "but I realized almost immediately I wanted my own executive secretary."

The epiphany started Teresa on a resolute educational path. First, she obtained an associates degree from a junior college, then she enrolled at St. Ambrose for her undergraduate degree.

She later enrolled in the H.L. McLaughlin MBA program at St. Ambrose University and earned her master's degree in 1987. Teresa earned both of her SAU degrees while raising a family, making use of the St. Ambrose ACCEL degree evening programs.

All the while, Fred Harris was working, coaching, and doing everything he could to help raise a family that eventually grew to six children.

"There were a lot of times that Fred was left with the children," Teresa said. "I was working, raising a family and hanging tough with a marriage - all the while going to school. Fred gave himself a party when I finally got done with school."

"I deserved it," Fred said.

Fred and Teresa Harris

In the meantime, Teresa left Deere to work in real estate. As the business grew and Fred became a partner, the couple decided Fred would benefit from an MBA as well. So back to school he went - earning his MBA from St. Ambrose in 1993 while studying alongside daughter Angela (Harris) Lindsay, who recently completed a term as a member of the St. Ambrose Board of Trustees and earned her MBA a year after her father.

"Looking back at it all, I have to say it was inspirational," Fred said. "The entire St. Ambrose staff was so supportive. If you had some trouble or some issues, St. Ambrose was there to help. And it wasn't just one person, it was five or six people saying, ‘OK, we know you have this going on in your life and here's how we can balance it out.'"

"I remember one semester we just didn't have the money to pay tuition," Teresa said. "St. Ambrose gave Fred a job as a student to help pay that tuition."

Today, Teresa and Fred Harris are comfortable and work diligently to ensure the next generation has a similar chance. The Harrises are extremely active in Davenport's inner-city neighborhoods and the larger community. They also make significant contributions to the Freeman Pollard Minority Scholarship Fund at SAU.

"St. Ambrose supported my family, they supported me, and they understood my situation," Teresa said.

"They listen," Fred said. "They understand and let you know that it's OK to ask for help. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. It makes you stronger, not weaker."

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