The Western Chapter lost one of its giants this week. Dr. Richard W. Harris passed away at the age of 92. For those of us who knew Dick, no comment is necessary. For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to know him, no comment is sufficient. Dick was that sort of person.
Arborists around the world knew Dick as a member of the faculty at the University of California, Davis where he worked in the Environmental Horticulture Department from 1950 – 1986. In addition, Dick served as director of the Parks and Recreation Administrators Institute from 1960-84 and president of the International Society of Arboriculture. He was the author of Arboriculture – The Integrated Management of Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Vines, first published in 1983. Dick was one of the founders of the California Tree Failure Report Program.
In a time when most arborists focused on pruning for aesthetic reasons, Dr. Harris expanded on his early training and research in pomology to teach students how to prune young trees to enhance structure. Working with UCD engineers, he tackled the problem of staking and trunk development, demonstrating that placing the stake next to the trunk causes the trunk to grow away from the stake. Representing the ISA, Dick served on the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers and was an author of the 8th edition and CTLA Chair for the 9th edition.
Dick was a devoted husband and father as well as a mentor to students and arborists. To call him a gentleman would not do him justice. Dick had a respectful, thoughtful manner to go along with his knowledge and curiosity.