President and CEO
For his outstanding leadership in transforming the social fabric of engineering and for excellence as an engineer and entrepreneur
Anthony Harris is into contemporary art, jazz, and wine. He's also interested in training young engineers, a passion he discovered 32 years ago as the founding president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
Like the notes of a jazz standard, which can be interpreted in many different ways, Harris found that engineering principles have wide application in life. Since getting a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue in 1975, he has used his training in positions ranging from project engineer for a waste treatment facility to car dealership president, and from program manager in the aerospace industry to leadership in sales and marketing.
As president and chief executive officer of Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Company, Harris now oversees the manufacture of equipment that detects contraband, explosives, and dirty bombs. The company's clients include U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and law enforcement agencies at home and abroad.
"My engineering education gave me an approach to problem solving that has been applicable to every business problem I have ever faced," says Harris. "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."
As a child growing up on the south side of Chicago, Harris spent time playing basketball and tennis, drawing comic books, and listening to Motown music. He loved math and dreamed of becoming an architect, but his high school drafting teacher suggested that engineering might give him more opportunities. An academic scholarship led him to a Purdue engineering degree, which he followed with a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. In this way, he was able to satisfy a parallel interest in entrepreneurship.
In 1975, Harris's creative spirit merged with engineering when, as a student at Purdue, he helped found the NSBE. With 27,000 members and chapters on five continents, NSBE is now the largest student-run organization in the country. He is understandably proud of his involvement with the organization and says that over the last three decades it has kept him focused on engineering, despite time spent in other fields.
While jazz and art trends may come and go in the next decade, Harris intends to keep his focus steady.
"I will continue solving problems of a technical nature and ones that have community impact, and I will support aspiring young science, math, engineering and technical professionals in any way I can," he says.
BSME '75, Purdue University