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Remembering Gary W. Harris

Submitted by
Jasmine Nelson

Today, May 7, we would have welcomed you to the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre to celebrate the life and legacy of Gary Harris. On behalf of Gary’s family, we regret to share that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event has been postponed. We look forward to rescheduling it as soon as we are permitted and, for now, on this day which would have been his 67th birthday, we are proud to remember this generous community builder and dear friend who passed away on February 15, 2020. 

“I benefited greatly by the education and experience I had here, and to give something back is basically the footprint of legacy,” said Gary in 2015. “It’s hard to express your feelings because there’s always a number of things you feel at the same time: honoured and proud to have my name there. At the same time, you feel a little humbled by it.” 

When Gary W. Harris committed $5 million to support the construction of RDC’s newest health, wellness and sport facility, many in our community were surprised. Who was this man who would make such a generous gift? Where had he come from? The name that would permanently hang on the side of this impressive and important facility wasn’t one that many in our city or community had heard before.  

That’s because Gary was a quiet community buildersupporting and serving on boards and committees for organizations across central Alberta. Gary’s life and career took him to different places in Alberta, but he considered himself a Red Deerian. He began his law degree at Red Deer College, but completed it at the University of Alberta, and in future years, he gave back to learners at both institutions by working as a sessional instructor. Gary enjoyed an impressive law career, and was recruited upon graduation by the prestigious firm, Bryan & Company, LLP, where he had worked as a student-at-law. Upon his return to Red Deer, he began working for the Harris family business, Westward Parts, and other business opportunities arose from there. Among his volunteer commitments, Gary served the Red Deer and District Community Foundation, Westerner Park Board of Directors and the Piper Creek Optimist Club. He supported our city and community as a committed volunteer for decades. 

When Gary stepped forward in 2015 to support the construction of what would become the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, he did so with the same quiet humility that had led his previous community work. His generosity stemmed from a genuine desire to make a difference in our community and region and to leave a lasting impact for future generations. He accepted the recognition graciously, with the hope his legacy would inspire others to give back to their communities. 

Gary knew this facility would propel our College toward becoming a University – the classroom and athletic spaces within it would strengthen RDC’s case, and learners would also be excited to study and play here. He understood personally what it meant to leave central Alberta to complete a degree program, and he knew university status would make these programs accessible for more of our region’s learners. In the years that have passed since his milestone donation, Gary also established an endowment in honour of his mother, a former teacher, which supports scholarships for students in RDC’s School of Education. A former King, he attended many games and was engaged with the RDC alumni community.  His support for RDC as a student, alumnus, instructor and donor have truly left an enormous impact on our College community.  

Gary believed deeply in the value of Red Deer College to this community. His impact can be seen across our campus, and we’re proud to have called him a true friend, who genuinely cared about making a difference in the lives of Central Albertans and, in particular, RDC learners.  

We will continue to celebrate and honour the indelible impact of Gary W. Harris on our community and College, and we look forward to inviting you to Celebration of Life event in the near future.  


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Main Phone: 403.342.3400
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Email: inquire [at] rdc [dot] ab [dot] ca

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Red Deer, Alberta | T4N 5H5