The people who never knew Nasir Harris learned why he was special.
Those who knew him remembered, smiled and cried.
Story and Photos
By Michael Lear-Olimpi
Co-adviser, Knightly News
About 40 people attended the dedication of the Knightly News Media Club podcast studio in the Boyer House to the late Nasir Harris on Thursday.
Nine members of Harris’ family, media club members, college administrators, faculty, staff and some students were on hand from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to view a memorial video of Nasir that included interviews with his mother and father, Eugene and Naomi Harris, his siblings, and Central Penn personnel who knew him. (See embedded video below.)
Harris, 28, a corporate communications major and a founding member of the Knightly News Media Club podcast studio, died June 14 after a brief illness. He was on a short break from school, but was preparing to return to Central Penn for the summer or fall term when he died at home.
“We miss him, but he will always be here with us, in our memories and in our hearts,” podcast studio manager and media club co-adviser Prof. Paul Miller told Eugene Harris.
Miller was speaking to Mr. Harris in a front room of the Boyer House, where a video of Nasir’s family and Central Penn faculty who knew him, presented reminiscences on a large-screen television screen of Nasir. The video, about half an hour long, played several times. Besides watching the tribute, people also toured the podcast studio. Several people left the video-tribute viewing room daubing tears.
“We all were very fond of Nasir,” Melissa Wehler, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, told Naomi Harris. “He will always be remembered.”
Nasir had been the student worker in Bollinger 46, where Wehler’s office was before it moved to the Advanced Technology Education Center (ATEC).
Matthew Vickless, dean of the School of Professional Studies and interim dean of the School of Business, also shared some memories of Nasir with his parents.
Linda Fedrizzi-Williams, Central Penn College co-president, provost and vice president of academic affairs, told Nasir’s parents she hadn’t had the honor of knowing Nasir, but had heard about his wonderfully positive attitude, helpfulness and friendliness, and expressed condolences and regret at the loss of a member of the college community as well-loved as Nasir.
“This is all very touching, and moving,” Eugene Harris said, surveying the people meeting and greeting one another in the Boyer House as they ate a light lunch. “Thank you, so much.”
Mrs. Harris was similarly moved.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to meet his ‘other’ family,” Mrs. Harris said of the event. “We knew he was very involved in the media club, but we never met any of his Central Penn family.”
Club President Sherri Long officially dedicated the podcast studio, on the second floor of Boyer House and which began operating in the early winter, to Nasir at about 12:15 p.m. on the historic building’s south lawn, where Central Penn facilities workers had set up tables and chairs for the occasion, and people continued their lunch.
Long’s comments were brief.
“We’re here to dedicate the Nasir Harris Podcast Studio,” Long, a corporate communications major, said as she held aloft the small, red wooden plaque with a black metal plate bearing Nasir’s name.
Long presented the family with the plaque, and a large photo of the family that people attending the studio dedication had signed on the back, and copies of the tribute video, made by club secretary Sarayuth Pinthong. Each media club member, co-advisers Miller and Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi, and some other Central Penn personnel received a copy of the video, which Pinthong made during a Saturday visit to the Harrises’ home in Harrisburg. Other media club members helped.
Pinthong, the club’s videographer who spent about 20 years as a photographer with the U.S. Air Force and who maintains his own photography and videography business, made the video with his equipment, on his time. The club covered the cost of producing the DVDs that were distributed.
Long, Miller, Lear-Olimpi and other club members, and Central Penn faculty and staff in attendance, gathered after the dedication for photos.
Prior to the dedication, attendees milled about inside the Boyer House, meeting and speaking with one another, and remembering Nasir.
“This is a great turnout, and an indication of how many people cared so much for this young man,” Richard Varmecky, Central Penn interim co-president and chief financial officer, said.
Professors Miller and Lear-Olimpi talked with the Harrises about Nasir’s love of radio, and his crucial role in making the podcast studio a reality.
“I remember him saying once, ‘We’re not doing radio? We can do podcasts – let’s do it,’” Lear-Olimpi told Mr. and Mrs. Harris, and two of his sisters. “He was passionate about it, and we were lucky to have him, for many reasons.”
Harris had done over-the-air radio at Shippensburg University before coming to Central Penn. He was a popular deejay at Ship, well known for his vast knowledge of and deep appreciation for music, and for his keen sense of humor. He brought those qualities, and more, to Central Penn, person after person said.
“Big Nas,” as Nasir’s family and friends called him, loved media – especially radio, and “all things voice,” club president Long said. “I’m sure he’s smiling down on us,” Long told the crowd assembled for the studio dedication.
The media club covered all costs for food, drink, the dedication plaque, and video production. The club owns the podcast equipment in the studio.
In her comments during the dedication, Long thanked club members, the advisers and the college for support of the club’s mission and work, and for attending the ceremony Thursday. She also thanked Facilities Department workers who provided the tables and chairs and set them up, and cleared the assembly area of walnuts that had fallen from trees on the Boyer House lawn that could have made walking difficult.
Besides Nasir’s parents, his sisters Nia, Naeemah, Nicole and, Chenita Lee, attended, along Kezra Lee, 9, and Aniah Lee, 11, and his aunt Betty Jean McEachin.
As people left after the gathering, Mrs. Harris again thanked media club advisers and members for their show of love for Nasir, and respect and concern for the family.
“From the time you came to our house just after Nasir passed, and his funeral, until now, with this wonderful remembrance, we have been getting to know his Central Penn family,” she told Lear-Olimpi. “We appreciate it, and you are welcome to visit our home at any time.”
Lear-Olimpi and Miller, along with recent corporate communications graduate and former club member Norman Geary, attended Nasir’s funeral in Philadelphia on June 19, and the college and School of Humanities and Sciences sent flowers.
Michael Lear-Olimpi is co-adviser of The Knightly News Media Club at Central Penn College and editor of Knightly News text content. He was Nasir Harris’ academic adviser.
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