Harris Frank, a longtime benefactor to WashU Olin whose vision and support of Olin students launched the successful Computer Comfort program for seniors, died on October 19, 2020. He was 95.
Mr. Frank was a longtime icon of business and philanthropy in the St. Louis community. He worked in his career for Gershman Commercial Real Estate and was a supporter of organizations including City Academy, Danforth Plant Science Center, Memory Care Home Solutions, the OASIS institute and St. Andrews Charitable Foundation. In 2014, he was honored with the Spirit of Philanthropy Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of St. Louis.
That same year, Mr. Frank made one of his more enduring contributions at Olin by serving as the inspiration and founder of Computer Comfort, a project begun originally with Olin MBAs. The program provides student-run classes for senior adults who want to understand how to better use computers, email and the internet.
Student volunteers show participants how to operate their computers, pick a password and navigate the web, and they work with the senior students on creating email accounts and other basics of navigating technology.
“This has been going on for a number of years. It has been a fabulous program,” said Steve Malter, senior associate dean of experiential learning and strategic programs at Olin. “Harris was the founder, financial supporter and biggest advocate.”
To launch the program, Mr. Frank worked with Malter and Mahendra Gupta, Olin’s dean at the time and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management.
In a video about the program for Olin Business School, Mr. Frank recalled getting help himself with a computer problem from a student—a student, he learned, who had made a small business in his hometown by helping seniors with their tech. That inspired Mr. Frank to push forward a broader program at WashU that is now also operating at the University of Iowa.
“They’re enthusiastic about it. Nobody is paying them, nobody is pushing them to do it. They don’t get any extra credit for doing it. They just want to do it,” Mr. Frank said in the video. “Because of their enthusiasm, they really instill comfort with these seniors.”
According to an obituary published by Berger Memorial Chapel, Mr. Frank was born in St Louis on June 15, 1925.
Mr. Frank gave to a wide variety of causes at Washington University. He supported an endowed scholarship at Olin and Brown School scholarships. He had been involved in Olin’s Scholars in Business program since 1993. In 2009, Mr. Frank and his wife, Judy, donated Alexander Archipenko’s Espagnole (1957) to the Kemper Art Museum in honor of his mother, Ruth Frank.
Mr. Frank served on the National Council for Arts & Sciences and on Olin’s Eliot Society Membership Committee.
“He was a truly inspirational man,” said Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, where Mr. Frank had served as board chair. “Harris was an amazing icon in the Jewish community—serving not just in leadership roles at the ‘J,’ but at Shaare Emeth and other institutions across the region.”
An obituary published by Shaare Emeth credits Mr. Frank for “conceiving the idea for the Senior Olympics, a movement that now spans all 50 states and boasts 350,000 participants nationwide.” The games—launched in St. Louis in 1987—were renamed the National Senior Games after objections from the US Olympic Committee, according to the organization’s website.
Mr. Frank is survived by daughter Nancy Hauserman (Daniel Benton) and son H. John Frank, Jr. (Jan); grandchildren William McGrory, Tyler Frank (JD ’02) (Kathryne), Molly Hubbard (Jack) and Katie Fallet (Mark); six great-grandchildren; and partner Renee Hartstein. Another relative also has WashU degrees: nephew John Lesser, AB ’65/MA ’70.
There will be a private memorial service for Mr. Frank on Friday, October 23, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. A livestream of the service will be available.
Pictured at top: Harris Frank (photo by Joe Angeles/Washington University)