May 19, 2020 Rich Rezler
Current Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees chairperson Christina Fleming started the board’s May monthly meeting by recognizing the first individual to hold her position.
Fleming requested a moment of silence at the beginning of Tuesday’s virtual meeting in honor of Samuel Harmon, who recently died at his home in Alexandria, Va., at the age of 90. The family of Harmon, named the first WCC board chair in 1965, hopes to hold a memorial service on Belle Isle in his hometown of Detroit “when such gatherings are safe.”
Harmon is remembered by long-time board member Tony Procassini as “a wonderful individual who believed strongly that the community college movement gave a lot of opportunities to kids that wouldn’t be able to go to school otherwise.”
Procassini, 99, knew Harmon professionally, having worked in the personnel department at both Willow Run Laboratories and the Bendix Corporation when Harmon was hired at those companies following completion of his master’s degree at the University of Michigan School of Engineering.
“He definitely started the hard way and became a very good engineer,” Procassini said. “He had a tremendous career in the service before coming to this area to finish up his education.”
Harmon joined the Navy in 1944 at the age of 15, according to his obituary, and in 2015 received a Congressional Gold Medal for his service in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.
Both Harmon and Procassini became active members of the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, a driving force behind the creation of a community college in the area. After serving as the first chairman of the WCC Board of Trustees in 1965, he remained on the board in 1966. Procassini was a member from 1966-1992.
“Sam ran a good ship and believed in the college,” Procassini said. “Very early on, he defined the name of the game for trustees was to establish policies and hand them off to the executive branch to carry through on them, which is something that’s continued for all the years the college has been in existence.”
After raising eight children in Ann Arbor, Harmon and his wife of 66 years, Frances, relocated to Nairobi, Kenya in 1977 and Harmon spent 20 years working in international development in various African countries.