Eleanore Harris became a quadriplegic in a car accident in 1934. Her siblings – Thelma, Alvin and Harold – vowed to stick together until Eleanore walked again.
Their legacy continues through the Harris Family Foundation’s donation to the newly renamed Harris Family Center for Disability and Health Policy (CDHP) at Western University of Health Sciences. CDHP, formerly known as the Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions, held a reception on Oct. 16, 2009, to celebrate the name change and the opening of its new headquarters on the WesternU campus.
Eleanore never walked again, but her family kept their promise to stay together, said Howard Borenstein, Harris Family Foundation board member and a relative of the Harris’. His father, Seymour, is Thelma, Alvin, Harold and Eleanore’s first cousin.
Eleanore was a vibrant, outgoing woman, but she was restricted by her era, Borenstein said.
“If this center existed back then, she would be the head of a corporation or a teacher,” he said. “Because of the time period of the accident, she was held back. This center pushes people forward.”
The Harris family developed and operated several successful businesses. Harold, the last of the four siblings to die in 2001, wanted the family’s money to support research and public policies aimed at increasing the independence and self-reliance of people like Eleanore.
“This center sets policy and helps people with disabilities,” Borenstein said. “This is a way for their legacy to live on. This is exciting, to take their life’s final work and help people to live life. They would be very proud.”
CDHP honored the Harris Family Foundation at the Oct. 16 reception. Representatives from Assemblywoman Norma Torres and state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod presented proclamations to CDHP.
CDHP Director Brenda Premo made a special presentation to Dr. Julie Madorsky, who introduced her to WesternU President Philip Pumerantz and helped establish CDHP. A plaque outside of the new building honors Julie’s husband, Dr. Art Madorsky, who served as a professor and Board of Trustees member at WesternU for many years prior to his death.
“I learned so much from Julie and Art,” Premo said. “He was a great teacher for me, as was Julie.”
Dr. Julie Madorsky said she remembers sitting at the Pumerantzes kitchen table and brainstorming ideas about what Brenda and WesternU could accomplish together. The new building is important, but also important are the people within the center – the vision, determination and skill of Dr. Pumerantz and Brenda in making things happen, she said.
“It’s truly amazing what has happened here,” she said.