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Ten Questions: Philip R. Harris is an author, futurist

Philip Robert Harris, Ph.D. is a management/space psychologist and author of 46 published books - the most recent is “Space Enterprise: Living and Working Offworld in the 21st Century” (2009, Springer.com).

Two of his best-selling professional books, which he co-authored, are: “Managing Cultural Difference” (2007,7th edition, Elsevier.com), now used in more than 400 universities and colleges worldwide as a textbook, and “Multicultural Law Enforcement” (2008, 4th edition, Prenhall.com). They are popular in criminal justice courses.

In the late 1950s, he produced and hosted a 37-week segment on NBC’s Sunday “Today” show based on four of his earlier volumes in “The Insight Series.”

As a behavioral science consultant, he has served more than 250 human systems internationally, including many Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, military services and universities.

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What brought you to La Jolla?

In 1969, Dr. Jonas Salk read a journal article of mine and invited me to the Salk Institute to discuss its contents with him and Dr. Jacob Bronowski. They took me to the La Valencia for lunch and picked my brain for three hours regarding futuristic books they were writing. I fell in love with this “pearl of great price” and returned home convincing my then wife, Dr. Dorothy Lipp Harris, a dean at Penn State, that we should relocate to La Jolla.

This we did on New Year’s Day, 1970, and never regretted the choice. I came here as vice president of Copley International, while she became a professor and dean at United States International University. Incidentally, the feature article that prompted Salk’s invitation was entitled, “Toward Human Emergence,” which after 40 years of further research and development will be published later this year as a book by Human Resource Development Press (hrdpress.com).

What makes La Jolla special to you?

It is set by the sea in the beautiful locale of San Diego. Back in 1974, I wrote a feature for the La Jolla Light predicting that our community was becoming a knowledge center because of its proximity to UCSD, many research institutes and the burgeoning high tech industries in the nearby “Valley of the Chips.” What I did not realize then is that the whole of San Diego would develop in the same way.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what would you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

If I could have my druthers, I would encourage the city to build a bridge over La Jolla Parkway, to join La Jolla Scenic Drive North and South. Second, I would encourage the state to build an added entrance and exit to and from Interstate 5, possibly on Nautilus Avenue. That would cut down on the traffic jamming on “The Throat” of La Jolla Parkway.
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A member of the City Council wrote to me that both proposals had been once funded, but local property owners had opposed such construction. My feeling is that the common good should override individual owners’ wishes in such matters. Right now if there was a disaster in La Jolla, most people would be trapped with only two means of escaping - on the north side and south side of the village. We already had one experience of backed-up autos when a water main broke and flooded the old Ardath Road.

Who or what inspires you?

Humanitarians who make a difference in our world. Selfless people who care for the less fortunate or who volunteer their services for the benefit of the community. For example, after the death of my first wife in an auto accident on Ardath Road by the Fire House, neighbors helped me to get the city to close off the Ardath Lane entrance for emergency vehicles only.

When I remarried, my present spouse, Janet Belport-Harris, got me involved in the local performing arts efforts, such as the rehabilitation of the classic Balboa Theatre in Horton Plaza.

After her retirement from the high fashion industry, she had been a volunteer for many local nonprofit enterprises. I also admire affluent citizens who establish foundations for the benefit of human family. What inspires me are ideas and concepts, such as that humanity is in the process of moving beyond Earth to achieve our destiny and potential.

If you were hosting a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite thought stimulating people who I have met in the course of my 83 years, starting with my elegant two wives. Others in particular would be: Mother Theresa; the reformer Pope, John XXIII; Lowell Thomas, radio commentator and author; Kenneth Galbraith, professor, economist, author and ambassador; Jonas Salk and his wife, Francoise Gilot; Jacob Bronowski and his wife, Rita; Dr. and Mrs. James Grier Miller, now deceased La Jollans who published extensively on the Living Systems Theory. Notice that with my spouses, we expanded the dining table to 14 people, counting myself.

What are you currently reading?

In retirement, I try to read three different books simultaneously each day, such as the following: Richard Dowden’s “Africa – Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” (Portobello Books, 2008); Wade Davis and K. D. Harrison’s “Book of People - A Guide to Cultures” (National Geographic, 2008); and Raymond Khoury’s “The Sanctuary” (2008).

What is your most prized possession?

Although I am not attached to material things, I thank the late realtor Ursula Younie for finding us the perfect house overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

What do you do for fun?

Reading, travel and golf were my main outlets. Since open-heart surgery in 1977, I look forward to two therapy hours daily at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, where swimming helps to keep me fit. Also I enjoy the performing arts, especially the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, San Diego Chamber Orchestra and The Old Globe.
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Describe your greatest accomplishment

At the personal level, survival after many physical setbacks and death of a spouse. At the professional level, three events were transforming. First, getting to produce and host a 37-week segment for the “Today” show. Second, receiving a U. S. State Department grant as a Fulbright professor to India, which enabled me to travel globally. Third, obtaining an Office of Naval Research contract to undertake a three-year study for the U. S. Marine Corps’ leadership and human resource development.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

I guess you could sum it up in a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which I paraphrase here: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sorrow, let me give joy.” As I read President Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and listened to his speeches, it seems to me that also is his underlying message to the American people.

For more information, visit

www.drphilipharris.com