Dynamic Mechanical Engineering alumnus awarded honorary doctorate
On May 11 of this year, Purdue bestowed its highest honor upon Anthony “Tony” Harris with an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering. He is one of only two 2013 Purdue Honorary Doctorates in Engineering recipients this year and the fourth Mechanical Engineering alumnus to receive the prestigious honor in the last two years.
Harris grew up on the south side of Chicago playing basketball and tennis, drawing comic books, and listening to Motown music. He originally wanted to pursue a career as an architect, but a high school teacher advised him that engineering could provide far more opportunities for him. An academic scholarship led him to Purdue, where he earned his Bachelors of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1975 before going on to earn an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1979.
Harris is no stranger to success. Prior to graduating from Purdue, he became the founding president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), now the nation’s largest student-run organization with over 30,000 members. He started his postgraduate career at Ford Motor Company, followed by Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation where he held a number of positions prior to becoming CEO of Sonoma Ford/Lincoln Mercury. Prior to his current position, Harris has been vice president of marketing for Calpine Corporation, vice president of marketing and sales for California-based Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), vice president of national account services and western region sales for PG&E Energy Services, and president of Standard Pacific Gas Line, Inc.
In 2007, Harris became the President and CEO of Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Co. (CSECO), which designs and manufactures equipment that detects contraband, explosives, and so-called “dirty bombs,” which combine a radioactive material with conventional explosives. CSECO’s primary customers include the U.S. State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Throughout this distinguished career, Harris has always maintained a close connection with Purdue. In 1999, he was a recipient of the Outstanding Mechanical Engineer award and also became a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Council. Harris was also given the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from the College of Engineering in 2008 for his outstanding leadership in transforming the social fabric of engineering, and for excellence as an engineer and entrepreneur. He has also served as chair of the National Advisory Board of NSBE since 2008 and continues to be an advocate for young engineers.
Despite his career spanning a multitude of varying disciplines, Harris is grateful for his educational background in engineering.
“My engineering education gave me an approach to problem solving that has been applicable to every business problem I have ever faced,” he said. “It also gave me a language and source of credibility needed to manage other technical professionals, and it gave me confidence in my ability to master complex concepts.”
Through his dynamic and successful career and unending advocacy for engineering, Tony Harris has shown himself to be an outstanding leader, innovator, entrepreneur, and a true Boilermaker.