In Memoriam Frank Harrison, M.D., Ph.D. 1913 – 2013

In Memoriam: First president was innovator

In Memoriam Frank Harrison, M.D., Ph.D. 1913 – 2013

The UT Health Science Center community, Texas and the nation lost a pioneer with the passing of Frank Harrison, M.D., Ph.D., on Aug. 9. He was 99. As the first president of the Health Science Center, Dr. Harrison paved the foundation for a strong faculty and administration and positioned the university as a model of excellence in education and research.

Soon after The University of Texas System Board of Regents named Dr. Harrison as president on Nov. 4, 1972, he named deans for the School of Medicine and Dental School of the Health Science Center and established the institution’s Executive Committee. During the 1970s, a $3 million laboratory animal resources area was completed as part of a $15 million School of Medicine expansion project and the Board of Regents authorized plans for a $9.5 million library building.

The School of Nursing and Dental School buildings were constructed and dedicated. Dr. Harrison oversaw the transfer of the School of Nursing from the UT System into the Health Science Center, and presided over the establishment of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Allied Health Sciences (now the School of Health Professions). He also launched the Health Science Center Development Board. It was a time of tremendous growth, and Dr. Harrison’s graceful leadership always accentuated the positive.

The Health Science Center, at its establishment, enrolled 500 students, employed 1,000 faculty and staff, and conducted sponsored research of $3 million. By September 1984, upon Dr. Harrison’s retirement, the Health Science Center enrolled more than 2,300 students, employed more than 3,000 faculty and staff, and conducted sponsored research of $32 million.

Prior to his presidency at the Health Science Center, Dr. Harrison pursued a long and distinguished career of service within the UT System, notably at UT Southwestern, where he was associate dean of graduate studies. In 1966, UT System Chancellor Harry Ransom asked Dr. Harrison to launch the graduate program at UT Arlington. Within two years, Dr. Harrison had established six graduate departments approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Named president in Arlington in 1968, he fostered an atmosphere of collaboration and openness while demonstrating the desirable ability to run a tight ship. He was a detailed and skilled administrator who worked behind the scenes in advance of official actions to ensure their success.

Dr. Harrison was born on Nov. 21, 1913. The son of a Dallas neurologist, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Southern Methodist University and studied for two years at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Northwestern University.

UT Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, said Dr. Harrison’s legacy of innovation and collaboration in education and research helped mold the university into the success it is today. “Dr. Harrison will be remembered and appreciated for generations to come,” Dr. Henrich said.

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