Paul Harris '98 is the current president of the Saint Ignatius High School Alumni Executive Council for 2018-2019. The Alumni Executive Council (AEC) governs and manages the Saint Ignatius Alumni Association and works to engage alumni through fundraising, networking, and events. Founded in 1949, the Alumni Association’s membership includes more than 18,000 alumni. The Association promotes the best interests of the school, fosters a spirit of loyalty and fraternity among graduates, and supports giving programs in conjunction with the school’s Office of Institutional Advancement.
We talked with Harris about his experience leading the Alumni Executive Council this year and got his thoughts on the future of the group and Saint Ignatius High School.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. I am a litigator with Ulmer in Cleveland. I am a partner with the firm and co-chair of our business litigation group, which means in addition to my own work as a litigator, I supervise our other business litigators working out of our Cleveland, Chicago, Columbus and Cincinnati offices. I live in Rocky River with my wife, Stephanie, and our two boys, Anderson (age 4) and Ozzie (age 1 ½). Hopefully they will be future Men for Others. My wife, Stephanie, is an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. She has her PhD in biochemistry. She teaches out of the School of Medicine at Case, and her research and teaching focus on nutrition. My wife and I lived on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland for 10 years and we were into traveling as much as we could, but there is less of that now as all of our time seems to be spent working and corralling the boys.
Q. Explain your goals this year as you serve in the role of AEC president.
A. My goal for this year is to support the school and the current administration as much as possible. The school has great leadership including Fr. Guiao, S.J. '82 and our Board of Regents, and as President of AEC I’m looking to help further the school’s mission in whatever way is needed.
Q. What does the AEC have planned this year?
A. The AEC has already launched its committees for the year, and each is out doing its own good work for the benefit of the school and its alumni. I encourage all alumni to keep an eye out for invitations, including, for example, from our service committee that finds worthwhile service experiences for alumni to join. I’d also keep an eye out for networking opportunities, as the school’s alumni office and the AEC committees do a great job of offering those opportunities to reconnect with your former classmates. And for those outside of the Cleveland area, Saint Ignatius Connect is a great way to do that online.
Q. What is your favorite alumni event?
A. I’ve always been partial to the Bellarmine Luncheon because it brings together all Saint Ignatius graduates in the legal community and celebrates a deserving recipient. As Chair of the event for several years, I would bring judges to the event who were not necessarily connected to the school. It’s always been rewarding to hear them comment afterward not only about the quality of the event, but also many would say how impressed they were by the number of Saint Ignatius alumni in the legal community and their continued showing of commitment to their Alma Mater.
Q. Do you have a favorite memory from high school?
A. I had such a good experience overall that it all just blends together as one worthwhile and important experience in my life. I would say the two general memories I have that remain with me are the quality and breadth of education I received and the friendships I made. As to the former, I went on to college, then earned my law degree and then an MBA, and I still say that the toughest educational stretch for me was at Saint Ignatius. It was always demanding, and the quality of educator there is without equal. Also, I appreciate that Saint Ignatius taught me more than what is in the books; it taught me how to strive to be a good person in a challenging world. The educators I had did not have a narrow view of the world, but instead taught different perspectives and how to think critically, which carried me through further education and benefits me still today. As to the latter, I suppose Saint Ignatius is the closest experience I’ve had to what others may have experienced via a fraternity. My closest friends for life are friends from Saint Ignatius days, and it seems I continue to make friends with other grads as we run into each other in the legal and business communities.
Q. What do you think has remained the same since your time at Saint Ignatius? What's the biggest change you've witnessed?
A. The school has stayed true to its mission and continued to offer an unparalleled opportunity for young men to receive a first class education right here in Cleveland. We are truly lucky to have Saint Ignatius in Cleveland, and because of the many devoted stakeholders (including alumni that continue to show their generosity to the school), the school has flourished and continues to expand its footprint figuratively and literally in the area. And I’d have to say that literal footprint is the biggest change. While there was development when I was a student, returning to campus this year for the Alumni Memorial Mass reminded me how much has changed physically on campus. In particular I think the Marian Mall and Grotto was a meaningful addition to the campus and an appropriate tribute to Jim Skerl '74 and others.
Q. How can alumni get involved with AEC and AEC sponsored events or committees?
A. I would encourage alumni to participate in their class-specific activities, which they might be receiving in their email inbox. For example, take a moment to reconnect with the school and update your classmates on where you are in life.
Q. Which teachers had the biggest influence on your time at Saint Ignatius?
A. There are too many fantastic teachers there to individually name, and I’d be afraid to leave someone out who no doubt left an impression on me. Fr. Ober’s class of course remains legendary, and I had a chance to catch up with him recently when he returned to Cleveland for an event. I’ll also give a shout-out to the English department because I went on to become an English major at The Ohio State University, and the training I received served me well at future schools and as a lawyer. Some of the great ones in that department are still there or recently retired – Tom Beach, Rich Fujimoto, Chuck Kyle, Kathy Betz. Again, too many great ones to name.
Q. Why did you choose to support Saint Ignatius High School in this role?
A. I’ll support Saint Ignatius in whatever way I can because I believe in it. I believe in what it stands for and in all the good that it has done in truly molding young men into Men for Others that go on to live good lives. I feel I owe Saint Ignatius for the path that it put me on and the education that it gave me at a critical time in life. If I can help further the mission even a bit by serving on the alumni council, then I’m all in.
“Paul is an amazing asset to the institution,” said Garen Distelhorst '96, Director of Alumni Relations for Saint Ignatius. “It would be impossible to quantify what Paul’s contributions of time and leadership through the years have meant to the Alumni Association and the school. First as chairman of our Bellarmine Committee, which represents alumni in the legal community, and now as the president of our Alumni Executive Council, Paul has always demonstrated a steady hand and amazing instinct for making the correct decision. This is a well deserved honor. I am privileged to call him a colleague and friend.”
If you're interested in becoming a part of the Alumni Executive Council, contact Garen Distelhorst '96 at firstname.lastname@example.org