When looking for leadership, for partnership, or for friendship, you look for someone who is steady—someone who stands firm because she knows where her roots are planted. Someone who, in uncertain times, will find a way forward by looking up and ahead. Someone who can see the light, can point it out, and who is willing to press toward it—and lead the way for others.

For us at Bennett College, that leader, partner and friend was Andrea Harris. When she closed her eyes for the last time on May 20, 2020, it was a breathtaking loss. We are devastated.

We are not alone. From across the state and around the world came expressions of heartbreak, admiration and praise. She is remembered as a force:

“dignified and fierce”
“a faithful friend and mentor”
“wonderful role model and advocate”
“a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social, economic, and racial equity”
“a model of determination and resilience”
365体育网站 “Small in stature but a giant in everything she touched”

You knew from the arch of her brow and the wry slant of her smile that she was not to be underestimated. She had smart ideas and strong opinions—and she let them be known. But she listened, too. She encouraged others. That was the nature of her leadership, developed over a lifetime of service and decades of engagement in her beloved communities.  

365体育网站Born in Sumter, South Carolina and raised in Henderson, North Carolina, her formative years were molded by the Civil Rights Movement. Her commitment to serve was honed and fired at Bennett College. It was as a student here in the late 1960s that she began to work to support community organizations that advocated for change and improvement in the lives of women, the aged, the poor, and people of color.

When she graduated in 1970, after a brief stint as a public school teacher, she was drawn back to her calling as a community advocate and she followed that path for the rest of her life. She was only 23 when she became Executive Director of Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity, Inc. As one of the youngest community agency directors in the nation, she began a career that lasted for more than five decades, leading organizations that focused on economic justice as a way to uplift individuals and communities across race, class, gender and condition.

365体育网站When Andrea Harris “retired,” she didn’t retire. She became a Senior Fellow at Self-Help Credit Union. Governor Roy Cooper tapped her to serve on the state's Advisory Council for Historically Underutilized Businesses. She shared her talent and experience in her capacity as a board member for economic development organizations around the state. She remained an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

365体育网站The thread that ran through her work was the desire to see people—all people—prosper. She lived her life working to improve the lives of the elderly, the poor and those who had need. The caliber and significance of her contributions to the state of North Carolina will be felt for generations.

365体育网站The value of her contributions to Bennett College can never be measured. She has been our steady and certain champion through our challenges and she has contributed immeasurably to our triumphs. As a tireless member of Bennett College National Alumnae Association, she stepped in whenever she was asked and wherever she was needed. She also served two extended terms on the Board of Trustees, giving her time, her ideas and her resources. But she did more than occupy a seat at the table. She was a presence on campus, attending events, carrying on the traditions of her alma mater, and engaging with students, faculty and staff with both warmth and wisdom. Her Bennett sisters were always at the center of her heart.

365体育网站She loved Bennett College not only for what it gave to her but for what she believed it would do for other young women. She gave this counsel to young Belles: “Believe in yourself and grab hold of this culture of self-affirmation that exists at Bennett…. It is that health and wholeness of self that assures you will find fulfillment deep inside your souls in whatever else you elect to do. You will be a better person for it.”

This advice was not just lip service; she lived by it. She was365体育网站 that better person.

365体育网站“I decided to be a part of saving the world,” Harris once said of her youthful ambitions. “I thought I was invincible.”

365体育网站We thought she was, too. To us, she always seemed too resilient to be defeated, too resolute to be overcome, too wise to be outwitted. She was our sister whose devotion never wavered. We relied on that. And now, while we are distraught by the loss of her presence, we affirm that her light will never go out as long as we stand in her legacy and as long as we remember her name.

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365体育网站When looking for leadership, for partnership, or for friendship, you look for someone who is steady—someone who stands firm because she knows where her roots are planted. Someone who, in uncertain times, will find a way forward by looking up and ahead. Someone who can see the light, can point it out, and who is willing to press toward it—and lead the way for others.

For us at Bennett College, that leader, partner and friend was Andrea Harris. When she closed her eyes for the last time on May 20, 2020, it was a breathtaking loss. We are devastated.

365体育网站We are not alone. From across the state and around the world came expressions of heartbreak, admiration and praise. She is remembered as a force:

“dignified and fierce”
“a faithful friend and mentor”
“wonderful role model and advocate”
“a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social, economic, and racial equity”
“a model of determination and resilience”
365体育网站 “Small in stature but a giant in everything she touched”

You knew from the arch of her brow and the wry slant of her smile that she was not to be underestimated. She had smart ideas and strong opinions—and she let them be known. But she listened, too. She encouraged others. That was the nature of her leadership, developed over a lifetime of service and decades of engagement in her beloved communities.

365体育网站Born in Sumter, South Carolina and raised in Henderson, North Carolina, her formative years were molded by the Civil Rights Movement. Her commitment to serve was honed and fired at Bennett College. It was as a student here in the late 1960s that she began to work to support community organizations that advocated for change and improvement in the lives of women, the aged, the poor, and people of color.

When she graduated in 1970, after a brief stint as a public school teacher, she was drawn back to her calling as a community advocate and she followed that path for the rest of her life. She was only 23 when she became Executive Director of Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity, Inc. As one of the youngest community agency directors in the nation, she began a career that lasted for more than five decades, leading organizations that focused on economic justice as a way to uplift individuals and communities across race, class, gender and condition.

In 1986, she co-founded the non-profit North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development to support minority and women-owned businesses. She led the organization, also home to the Women’s Business Center of NC, until 2014, contributing to public policy, engaging in education and training, and developing programs to help enhance the success of businesspeople across sectors. Her strategy was to work with financial, government and policy-making institutions—challenging them when necessary and partnering whenever possible—to create opportunities for minority- and women-owned firms. She was especially proud of the work that The Institute did to research and document the impact and value of HBCUs as major economic engines in their communities.

When Andrea Harris “retired,” she didn’t retire. She became a Senior Fellow at Self-Help Credit Union. Governor Roy Cooper tapped her to serve on the state's Advisory Council for Historically Underutilized Businesses. She shared her talent and experience in her capacity as a board member for economic development organizations around the state. She remained an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

The thread that ran through her work was the desire to see people—all people—prosper. She lived her life working to improve the lives of the elderly, the poor and those who had need. The caliber and significance of her contributions to the state of North Carolina will be felt for generations.

365体育网站The value of her contributions to Bennett College can never be measured. She has been our steady and certain champion through our challenges and she has contributed immeasurably to our triumphs. As a tireless member of Bennett College National Alumnae Association, she stepped in whenever she was asked and wherever she was needed. She also served two extended terms on the Board of Trustees, giving her time, her ideas and her resources. But she did more than occupy a seat at the table. She was a presence on campus, attending events, carrying on the traditions of her alma mater and engaging with students, faculty and staff with both warmth and wisdom. Her Bennett sisters were always at the center of her heart.

She loved Bennett College not only for what it gave to her but for what she believed it would do for other young women. She gave this counsel to young Belles: “Believe in yourself and grab hold of this culture of self-affirmation that exists at Bennett…. It is that health and wholeness of self that assures you will find fulfillment deep inside your souls in whatever else you elect to do. You will be a better person for it.”

This advice was not just lip service; she lived by it. She was that better person.

365体育网站“I decided to be a part of saving the world,” Harris once said of her youthful ambitions. “I thought I was invincible.”

365体育网站We thought she was, too. To us, she always seemed too resilient to be defeated, too resolute to be overcome, too wise to be outwitted. She was our sister whose devotion never wavered. We relied on that. And now, while we are distraught by the loss of her presence, we affirm that her light will never go out as long as we stand in her legacy and as long as we remember her name.

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Leave a Tribute

365体育网站Write a tribute in memory and honor of Andrea L. Harris '70.

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23 entries.
Janice R Crump from Alexandria wrote on May 27, 2020 at 11:29 am:
ANDREA HARRIS was a FORCE! Small in stature with a commanding voice, an indestructible spirit, and an unquenchable passion for Minority Business Development. I loved her as my Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Sister, and as a loyal and true friend. There are many entrepreneurs of color who owe the success of their booming businesses to her relentless efforts to level the playing field for people of color. Always friendly, faithful, and dependable, she never let anyone down. May she rest in peace - a soldier who "Fought the good fight, Finished the race, and Kept the Faith." Janice R. Crump President JRC Communications II Timothy KJV
Gwendolyn Mackel Rice from Chicago, IL wrote on May 26, 2020 at 7:34 pm:
For two years, I was privileged to serve with our Sister Belle Andrea on the Bennett College Board of Trustees. Her service to Bennett as an alumna first, and secondly, as a trustee, was unparalleled. Though she was tiny of stature, she left big shoes for others to walk in and continue her legacy of social, economic, and racial justice. She was a Belle who did it well!
Kwanza Jones from California wrote on May 26, 2020 at 6:00 pm:
😢 I had the honor of serving on the Bennett College Board of Trustees alongside this extraordinary woman. A true Queen Belle. Trustee Harris was a phenomenal women. So much wisdom and candor and tenacity and love flowed through her. Through her actions she showed how to always use your voice. Stand up. Speak out. And, bring your best always. She packed a lot of power and energy in her petite frame. Small yet mighty indeed. I know that #iamsupercharged and Trustee Harris was too. I recall swapping social media stories with her. Her tech savviness was completely unexpected but not at all surprising. She was impressive. This woman was always on point 🎯 She always stayed aware of ways to communicate and cultivate knowledge and opportunities for those who were often overlooked and underestimated. She will be missed and remembered fondly. She leaves a legacy of excellence that we can and should strive for. Talk about a #bennettbelle who always did it well... that was Trustee Harris. Rest in power Trustee Harris #RIP 💙 🔔 💙🔔 #queenmovesonly #bennettcollege #leader #womenempoweringwomen
Santiba Campbell wrote on May 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm:
Last fall, I had my first one on one conversation with Trustee Harris. As the Faculty Senate President, I serve on the Board of Trustees; at my first meeting, she literally welcomed me with open arms and a hug. After a morning of introductions and orientation, we had lunch. Afterward, Ms. Harris came over to me and said, “Okay, now it’s time to get to work.” If she had knowledge, you had knowledge because she was willing to share and teach. I am grateful for having served in her presence and honored that she took the time to impart just a bit of her wisdom with me. May we follow her examples of service and leadership.
Irma Bivens Spigner Jackson from Winston-Salem, NC wrote on May 25, 2020 at 11:00 pm:
Andrea and I were classmates at Bennett and this would have been our 50th year of graduation. As freshmen in 1966, Andrea was an advocate and voice for those who she thought were being underserved. She continued this fight and advocacy after we graduated in 1970. I am still adjusting to the shock of her death. I hope her legacy lives on through the many people she helped to empower who will continue to pay forward the changes she started. Rest in peace my Bennett sister and "Golden Belle", You will be missed but never forgotten.

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Social Media Tributes

Stories, memories and tributes about Andrea Harris shared on Twitter. #LegacyOfMsAndreaHarris #AndreaHarris

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