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David S. Harris, 1945-2013: Employee-relations expert was passionate


David S. Harris


David S. Harris, a former director of employee relations at Owens Corning, died Wednesday from cancer in Hospice of Northwest Ohio. He was 68.

Mr. Harris of Sylvania Township was diagnosed with gall bladder cancer in February, said Janice Harris, his wife of 13 years.

After working as a consultant in Chicago, Mr. Harris joined Owens Corning in 1998 to direct employee relations programs for the Fortune 500 company.

Jeff Wilke, vice president and assistant general counsel for Owens Corning, worked with Mr. Harris during most of his career there.

“David was the quintessential employee-relations expert. He loved visiting our plants all across the country and helping them develop employee-relations programs. He was a great teacher and mentor to our HR leaders and plant leaders by helping them to build and sustain positive work environments for our people. He will be missed,” Mr. Wilke said.

Mrs. Harris said her husband worked long hours for the company but was passionate about his job, enjoyed being a mentor to young employees, and sought to get the workers interested in what they were doing.

“He was an admitted workaholic. I accepted that. He could do his work, and I took care of the house. It was a true team effort,” she said. “David’s real passion was that of employee engagement and getting the most and best out of employees.”

He retired in 2011 to start his own consulting firm, D.S. Harris & Associates.

Mr. Harris was born on June 20, 1945, in California, Mo., and moved later with his family to the Los Angeles area, where he attended John Marshall High School. Mrs. Harris said he was a standout runner on the cross country and track and field teams.

Mr. Harris continued his education at California State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1967.

Four years later, he earned a master’s degree in business in human resource management from the University of Southern California.

He began his career in human resources with Morrison-Knudsen Corp., handling the civil engineering and construction company’s employee relations in Iran. However, he fled the country with other employees in 1979 after the overthrow of the shah and Islamic revolution.

Mrs. Harris said he took a human resources position with Standard Oil Co. and managed employee relations during Trans-Alaska pipeline construction. She said he lived in Anchorage and worked in remote camps in Alaska’s North Slope and Valdez and Prudhoe Bay.

He left the oil company in 1986 to work for Businessland Inc., staying with the former computer retailer through its stores’ closing in 1991.

Mr. Harris was employed with John Sheridan Consultants until he went to Owens Corning.

It was in this position that he met the former Janice Book Akin. She was employed for a hospital in Chicago when Mr. Harris was doing consulting work for the hospital. They were married Sept. 11, 1999.

Surviving are his wife, Janice; parents, Rodney and Ruth Harris; brothers, Bruce and Scott Harris; daughters, Stephanie Stansbie, Tamara Pedersen, Rebecca Orange, and Kristie Jones, and eight grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Ave.

A memorial service will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the Epworth United Methodist Church.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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