Harris, Zelema

Harris, Ed.D.
Year Inducted: 
Zelema Harris
  • Chancellor of St. Louis Community District
  • 2008: named St. Louis Business Journal’s Most Influential Women in Business, Most Influential St. Louisans and Most Influential Minorities in Business
  • YWCA of St. Louis Leader of Distinction
  • President of the Year from the American Association of Women in Community Colleges
  • CEO of the Year from the American Association of Community College Trustees
  • Most Valuable Citizen Award and Athena Award for Outstanding Business/Professional Woman from the Champaign County Illinois Chamber of Commerce

Zelema Harris is the youngest child of an East Texas farm family. She earned her BA from Prairie View A&M University, then went on to receive her masters and doctorates of Education from the University of Kansas. She credits a graduate class she took while at KU with her interest in the community college movement. But hers was not an easy path to the top. Dr. Harris applied at the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City 14 times before being hired.  She now serves as chancellor of St. Louis Community College and is President Emeritus of Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. 

Dr. Harris leads the St. Louis district in developing programs to serve a local population of nearly 2.5 million.  The district is the largest community college system in Missouri and second only in size to the University of Missouri system. Its budget is approximately $154.9 million and employs more than 3,000. She served as Parkland College president for 16 years. While at Parkland, she established an award-winning faculty development center; led the college in receiving national and state awards in college planning processes; and directed the college in achieving distinction as a top provider of online education in Illinois.

Dr. Harris previously served as president of Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City, Mo., which is part of the Metropolitan Community College system. For her excellent work promoting the community college system, Dr. Harris has received many awards, including the American Association of Community College's Leadership Award and CEO of the Year from the American Association of Community College Trustees.

  • One must seek to come outside of themselves and give more in order to foster self improvement. You must be clear about your values and belief system then it’s easier for like-minded people to open their network to help you. A good attitude and solid values will take you a lot of places.  
  • Personally, I believe life has too much texture to capture it in a single thought or sentence. I love living and am grateful for each day that has been granted to me. Passion, joy and purpose are the foundation on which I've built my life. 

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