Harris family makes $5.5 million gift for track and field stadium

Author: John Heisler

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - University of Notre Dame alumnus Robert H. Harris and his wife, Mary Ellen, have made a $5.5 million gift to his alma mater to underwrite the construction of a stadium for the Fighting Irish track and field teams.

The Harris Family Track and Field Stadium will be built on the west side of the nine-lane outdoor track and field facility in the southeast corner of the Notre Dame campus.

Harris Family Track and Field Stadium Rendering

This gift, coupled with their previous donation in 2008 toward the completion of the track, will have a lasting impact on the transformation of the track and field program, said Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics.

“We are grateful to Bob and Mary Ellen Harris for this generous gift that will enable us to make a major advancement in facilities for Notre Dame student-athletes in track and field,” said Swarbrick. “The creation of locker rooms and other team space surrounding the outdoor track will provide a first-class home for our men’s and women’s squads.

“In addition, we hope the future improvements to this facility will make it another wonderful resource for the greater South Bend community, much as the Compton Family Ice Arena has become.”

The new building will house a number of team support areas, including student-athlete and coach locker rooms, team meeting and event operations space, a nutrition station, and a satellite athletic training area. Construction is expected to begin by the end the year.

“This is going to help our program immensely,” said Alan Turner, the Irish track and field head coach. “For so many years, we haven’t had any outdoor meets and we really don’t have great space for locker rooms and team meeting areas, so just having added space and a place to call our own is going to make a world of difference for our program.”

Harris earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Notre Dame and a doctorate in biochemistry from Rutgers University and is the president and chief executive officer of Harris FRC Corp., a New Jersey-based firm that offers strategic expertise on projects involving the development of drugs, biologics, medical devices, dietary supplements and cosmetics.

Harris’ experience in research, development, safety testing, evaluation, and regulatory affairs in the industry and academia as well with federal agencies, has aided numerous clients in bringing new products to market while preserving the status of existing products. Prior to Harris FRC, he worked as a research scientist at Warner Lambert and as director of preclinical sciences and executive director of regulatory affairs and product development at American Home Products. While in the latter position, he was actively involved in the approval of five new drug applications and the switch of Advil to over-the-counter status.

In addition, Harris has held positions with the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes for Health, and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown Medical Center. He is the recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the American Heart Association and serves on the College of Science Advisory Council at Notre Dame.

“Mary Ellen and I are humbled to have the opportunity to offer this transformational gift to the University of Notre Dame and the track and field program” said Bob Harris “We are truly excited about the life long impact this gift will make on the lives of the track and field student-athletes and coaches and on the South Bend community.

Bob and Mary Ellen are actively involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors that touch the lives of those less fortunate. The Harrises are members of Notre Dame’s President’s Circle, Sorin Society and Rockne Heritage Fund. They are the parents of five children and reside in Holmdel, New Jersey.

The track and field program at Notre Dame was established in 1921 and through its 94-year history has fielded consistently outstanding men’s and women’s teams. Dozens of track and field student-athletes have earned All-America honors and 18 have won NCAA titles.

In addition to the stadium structure, other improvements, pending additional funding, include permanent spectator seating/amenities for approximately 1,500 fans, equipment storage, lighting and a scoreboard.

-- by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director