NEWS RELEASE, 09/16/98

Fred Orin Harris, a founder of UC Berkeley's drama department, dies at age 97

By Julia Sommer, Public Affairs

BERKELEY -- Fred Orin Harris, one of the founders of the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of California, Berkeley, died Friday, Aug. 28, in Oakland. He was 97 years old.

Harris wore many hats during his 28 years at Berkeley. First and foremost, he was teacher and mentor to hundreds of students - among them Gregory Peck. Many of these students went on to careers on the stage and in television, radio and film.

Harris chaired the Department of Dramatic Art from 1943 to 1961. He played a major role in the design of the campus's Zellerbach Hall and in improvements made to the Greek Theater. He also produced and/or directed a wide range of works at UC Berkeley and was also expert in stage management and set design.

He served as assistant dean of the College of Letters & Science for four years before retiring in 1968.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Harris worked with the Actors Ensemble in New York and was studio director for Marie Ouspenskaya in New York and Hollywood in the late 1930s.

Along with his wife, Mary Caroline Blaisdell Harris, he was a pioneer of community theater. They co-directed the Little Theater of Padua Hills in Claremont, Calif.; the Portland Cure Theater in Oregon; and the Red Horse Tavern Summer Theater at the Diablo Country Club in California.

Fred Harris was a member of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco's List of Fifty, Old Guard, and Sages.

Born on Jan. 24, 1901, in Sumpter, Oregon, Harris received a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in 1924 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University in 1939. He taught at the University of Oregon from 1929 to 1931.

After his retirement from UC Berkeley, Harris resumed his passion for painting and sketching, working on canvasses until his death.

Services will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. at Transfiguration Episcopal Church in San Mateo, Calif.

Memorial donations may be sent to UC Berkeley to the Fred O. and Mary B. Harris Scholarship Fund, University Relations, 2440 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, Calif. 94720-4200.

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