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A Fine Education

Scholarship targets student committed to public service
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Virginia Bales Harris (above left) and her brother learned much from their parents, Virginia Bunch Shankle, a school teacher, and Willard Mayes Shankle, a career Air Force officer.

Education and service have been the fabric of Virginia Bales Harris's family for as long as she can remember. Her mother taught elementary school, and her father was a World War II veteran and career officer in the U.S. Air Force. Their beliefs guided their careers and how they cared for family, friends, and community.

Harris 71C 77MPH attributes her own success as an Emory graduate and CDC leader to the values held by her parents. While she and her brother were growing up, they learned about the world around them by visiting museums, churches, and historic sites where her father was stationed in the United States and Europe. When the family relocated to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., her parents bought a house sight unseen so their children could attend top-rated schools.

"That was how they made decisions," Harris says. "They wanted what was best for us."

David Sencer, who was director of the CDC when Harris first joined the agency, also knew what was best for her when he tapped her to enroll in Emory's new community health program—the forerunner of Rollins' MPH program. Her degree formed the foundation of her 35-year career at the CDC, where she led programs focused on chronic disease prevention and oversaw the CDC Master Plan, a massive construction program.

Throughout her career, Harris held many volunteer leadership positions at Rollins, most recently as alumni chair of Campaign Emory. In 2012, the Emory Alumni Association honored Harris with the J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award, which included a $25,000 grant from the Tull Charitable Foundation. She matched the grant to create an endowment fund for scholarships at Rollins.

Since then, Harris has considered making a bequest to create a scholarship named for her parents. Her son, Chip, and her husband, Dick, encouraged her not to wait. "Chip told me, 'Do it now while you can enjoy it,' " Harris says.

Thus she made an additional gift to establish the Virginia Bunch Shankle and Willard Mayes Shankle Scholarship, which will target an outstanding student planning a career in public service.

"My parents made enormous sacrifices so that I could have the benefits of a fine university education," says Harris. "Creating this scholarship is a tribute to my parents by paying it forward so that other aspiring young people can enjoy the same benefits."—Pam Auchmutey

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