Harris played numerous leadership roles—in ASILI, the Black student alliance; in Fordham’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, or CSTEP; and at Loschert Hall, where he served as a resident assistant. He served on the University’s undergraduate advising task force, and he was part of a team working with philosophy professors to add diverse voices to the department’s curriculum as part of a Teaching Race Across the Curriculum grant.
He was a leader among his friends, too, always ready to help them or dispense a wise word when it was needed.
“There wasn’t a moment when Vincent wasn’t a big brother to us,” said one of his friends, Anita Adu Manu, a fellow Fordham College at Rose Hill senior. “He taught me so much, and we’re all going to miss him.”
Harris was serious and hard-working, and always got things done on time, but he could also be “a goofy guy,” and fun-loving, said Rashain Adams Jr., president of ASILI.
“He was extremely authentic, and one of a kind,” Adams said.
A CSTEP Scholar
A native of Orange County, New York, Harris graduated from Regis High School in Manhattan in 2018 before coming to Fordham and joining CSTEP, a statewide program that prepares college students from underrepresented backgrounds for careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), or careers in healthcare or in licensed fields. Harris was interested in law school, said Renaldo Alba, associate director of the Fordham CSTEP program and its partner program for younger students, STEP.
Harris was a Dean’s List student double-majoring in philosophy and German language and literature, said Lisa Gill, Ph.D., assistant dean for the senior class at Fordham College at Rose Hill. Harris was also pursuing a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps through its Platoon Leaders Class and was set to become a 2nd lieutenant on June 10.
He was a member of the Caribbean and African Students Association, among his other roles, and he was described as someone who often brought different campus groups together for discussions.
“Vincent was a talented, warm-hearted, and highly engaged member of our campus community who gave of himself in so many ways,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Words cannot fully convey the tragedy of losing someone so young and so full of promise.”
Harris had received the C. David Ferguson CSTEP Scholar Award on May 5 in a ceremony at the Rose Hill campus. He had served in CSTEP’s companion STEP program for junior- and high-school students by teaching a seminar course—Philosophy and the Black Experience—to STEP students on Saturdays last fall at Rose Hill, Alba said.
He was also a tutor/peer counselor for STEP students enrolled in math, earth sciences, and rhetoric enrichment courses taught on campus by area high school teachers, he said, serving as a role model and helping to demystify the college experience and make it more accessible. In addition, Harris was part of a trio of CSTEP students who visited area schools on weekdays for conversations that supported a college access and student life curriculum, Alba said.
Harris had served as treasurer of ASILI and was vice president of the student organization this semester, Adams said. Harris played a significant role in arranging the virtual Fordham event in February featuring prominent author and activist Cornel West, Ph.D. “Without him, it wouldn’t have happened,” Adams said.
Geraldo De La Cruz, a senior in the Gabelli School of Business and fellow ASILI board member, said Harris loved to be active, and was often in the gym. He was passionate about his opinions, which were always well-reasoned, De La Cruz said.
Full of Energy
Harris’s fellow Loschert Hall resident assistant and ASILI board member, Sydni Britton, said “he very much cared about whatever he’s talking about, whatever he’s doing, whatever he’s involved in.”
He showed fortitude in his well-grounded perspectives on societal and political issues, “and that’s an admirable quality, especially if someone wants to be a leader,” she said. He did, however, show he could change his views based on discussion and new information—“a very difficult balance that many people can’t do,” said Britton, also a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior.
She noted his love for the outdoors, which came out during a hiking trip in the New York outskirts that they organized for Loschert Hall students last fall. “It was really cool to see how enthusiastic he was with the students about the outdoors.”
She described him as someone who wanted to make the most of every day. “He was definitely always about being in service of others,” she said.
Anita Adu Manu described him as humble, never wanting to be rewarded for anything, and “incredibly smart.”
She said that she and his other friends were going to try to finish out the semester showing Harris’s same joyful spirit.
“‘There’s nothing in life that’s out of reach’—that’s something Vincent always told us,” she said.
A memorial Mass for Vincent Harris will be held in the University Church at Rose Hill on Friday, May 13, at 12:15 p.m.