Fall 2009

[Alumni News]

For Love of the Game

Scholarship honors one alum’s passion for sports

Sports are at the center of Elizabeth Shannon’s HSU experience. First was volleyball. She knew she wanted to play, and HSU had the best program around — not to mention, she liked the coaches. Then there was her major, Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. As part of her program, she gets to test people’s fitness in the Human Performance Lab inside the brand new Kinesiology and Athletics building on campus.

And to top it all off, she was awarded a scholarship earmarked for students of physical education.

Virginia Torp Harris taught physical education and was always looking out for her students.

For Shannon, a senior from Pioneer, Calif., the scholarship meant help with the financial demands that every student faces: fees, textbooks, rent — all the expenses that can creep up. Easing that stress leaves more time for things like daily three-hour practices and traveling to games, time that has helped her be part of a close-knit community. “The team is like family. The players, they’re my sisters.”

It’s a good guess that this would have pleased her scholarship’s namesake, the late Virginia Torp Harris, who graduated from what was then known as Humboldt State College in 1938 with a degree in physical education. She taught P.E. to girls in junior high in South San Francisco and later in Portland. James Harris (’36) was a student at Humboldt State when he met Virginia, and they were married for 52 years. James’ brother Robert established the endowed scholarship in 1991 to honor Virginia’s passion for sports.

“Kids really liked her, she really took an interest in them,” says Suzanne Harris, James and Virginia’s daughter. “She even showed the girls how to walk in heels for graduation. They didn’t know how, so at lunchtime they brought their heels in and she showed how to walk in them. That was just who she was, always looking out for the young girls she taught.”

Several Torp Harris scholarship awards are handed out each year. Priority is given to students of physical education, but music students are also eligible. That’s because, in addition to being a champion tennis player, Virginia was an accomplished violinist who loved music and dancing.

For Liz Shannon, finding her own passion for exercise science is due in no small part to faculty in the program. “I love all my kinesiology professors,” she says. “They really want students to succeed.” Her hands-on experience on campus in the Human Performance Lab was recently augmented by a summer internship at Providence Health and Services in Portland.

Senior Elizabeth Shannon, a Kinesiology major, was awarded a scholarship that honors Torp Harris’s love of sports.

After Robert Harris started the scholarship upon Virginia’s death, friends and family made additional donations in her memory. James Harris, who before retirement was an executive at Chevron, makes regular contributions, and his gifts have been matched by the company. Suzanne Harris muses, “If it can inspire somebody else to help in whatever little way, it all fits together. It’s keeping her memory alive in a way that is her and would mean so much to her.”