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Britton Harris, A Pathfinder in City and Regional Planning

B. Harris

Britton Harris, emeritus professor of city and regional planning, died February 8 from complications of pneumonia at the age of 90.

Professor Harris received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1935, and an M.A. from the Planning Program at the University of Chicago in 1951. Prior to coming to Penn in 1954, his planning work included service with the Chicago Housing Authority and the government of Puerto Rico. He became UPS Professor of Planning, Transportation, and Public Policy in 1972. 

Professor Harris served Penn in many capacities: as chairman of the department of city and regional planning, 1970-73, and of the graduate group, 1972-75; as dean of Penn’s now-defunct School of Public and Urban Policy, 1977-81, and through joint appointments in several other departments and graduate groups. He became emeritus professor in 1984.

After his retirement, he continued to write and lecture, taught in the program in Appropriate Technology and in the Liberal Studies program, and spent a year as visiting professor at Stanford University, 1986-87. From the vantage point of more than 30 years at Penn, Professor Harris felt that his most productive contributions came from his work on the Penn Jersey Transportation Study, which led to a significant special issue of the Journal of the American Institute of Planning (May 1965) and to a conference on transportation planning, published in an influential volume (Special Report no. 97, Highway Research Board, Washington D.C.).

Among his later writings, Professor Harris  continued to pursue the use of computer technology, especially geographic information systems, in planning support applications to explore urban form. Representative are an essay written with the eminent British modeler, Michael Batty, “Locational Models, Geographic Information and Planning Support Systems,” in  Planning Support Systems (2001) edited by Richard Brail and Richard Klosterman and “Accessibility: Concepts and Applications,” in Journal of Transportation and Statistics (2001). 

Dr. Eugenie L. Birch, professor and chair,  department of city and regional planning, notes, “Britton Harris was an intellectual giant  whose students were not only Penn graduates but all who were interested in advancing the art and science of the field through rigorous and thoughtful analysis of the dynamic processes of spatial interaction that shape urban places.” 

In 2000, in recognition of his work, the American Institute of Certified Planners inducted Mr. Harris, FAICP, into its College of Fellows citing him as  “a pathfinder [who] over 40 years ago, foresaw the importance of computer simulations in planning, the need for applied location theory, and the salience of human values and behavior in urban development. His basic research and tireless advocacy have spurred the advance of new methods in planning. This work, despite its admitted limitations, has helped pave the way for a new generation of advances in the scientific support of planning for the 21st century.”

Professor Harris pursued many fields during his career at Penn. His interest in developing countries was expressed in his work in Puerto Rico as a member of the Ford Foundation Delhi Master Planning Team, and in other consultancies. He was an early and consistent advocate of the use of computers and models in urban planning; he was a member and past president of the Regional Science Association, and made many contributions to land use and transportation modeling. Most recently he related the use of microcomputers and geographic information systems to his other interests. Throughout his career at Penn, Mr. Harris wrote widely on these topics and participated in the work of organizations concerned with them. 

In 1991 the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning awarded Professor Harris its Distinguished Educator Award. 

He is survived by his wife, Ruth; his son, Jared, two daughters, Katherine and Ellen; his granddaughter, Laurel Martin-Harris and his sister, Margaret Zorach.

Donations in his memory may be made to Penn’s Department of City and Regional Planning, Meyerson Hall, 210 S. 34th Street, Philadelphia, PA  19104. The Department of City and Regional Planning at PennDesign will arrange a memorial gathering sometime late spring.

Kathryn Engebretson, Finance

K. Engebretson

Dr. Kathryn J. Engebretson, president of the William Penn Foundation, and former vice president for finance  and chief financial officer at Penn, died on February 10, at the age of 48.

Dr. Engebretson earned her B.A. in 1977 from Luther College in Iowa, and a M.S. in statistics from the University of Minnesota in 1981. She earned her M.B.A. in 1983, and her Ph.D. in 1996 at Wharton.

Dr. Engebretson was vice president of Lehman Brothers, 1984-91 and then served as City Treasurer of Philadelphia,  1992-94, where she turned around the city’s financial ratings and refinanced its debt. In 1994, she was recruited to Miller Anderson & Shepherd, a Conshohocken-based institutional assets arm of Morgan Stanley where she went on to become a principal.

She joined Penn in 1997, and left in 1999 to become CFO of BET.com. In 2001 she was named president of the William Penn Foundation. Among her proudest accomplishments were efforts to advance the competitiveness of Pennsylvania through the Campaign to Renew Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Engebretson is survived by her daughter, Emma; father, Conrad; mother, Joanne Leistikow Groettum; brother, Tom; and sister, Maria. Donations may be sent to the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn, 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA  19104-3309.

Bob McKee, Palestra Scorekeeper

Robert E. McKee, the Palestra’s official scorekeeper for the past 47 years, died on February 6 at the age of 73.

Mr. McKee was a sales representative for L.G. Balfour for 17 years and then for Spatola Wines for ten years before retiring in 1984.

At last week’s men’s basketball game against Princeton, the following tribute to Mr. McKee was read; it was written by Carla Zighelboim, director of Athletic Communications.

“At this time, we would like to take a moment of silence to remember Penn alumnus, Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Famer and long-time scorekeeper Bob McKee who passed away this week at age 73. Bob was a 1953 graduate of Penn (Col ’53) and was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1990.  Bob’s name was forever etched into the landscape of this historic building with a plaque at the scorers table when he retired in 2001 as the official scorekeeper here in The Palestra after witnessing thousands of men’s and women’s college basketball games. The University of Pennsylvania athletic department, its basketball programs and the hundreds of student-athletes and coaches who came in contact with Bob will always remember his never-ending smile.”

Mr. McKee is survived by his wife, Dorothy Wibberley McKee; sons, Bruce R., and Gary N.; daughters, Gayle M. Alderman and Bonnie M. Bogush; and 12 grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Lionville Youth Association, 715 N. Ship Rd., Exton, PA 19341 or the American Heart Association, 625 W. Ridge Pike, Suite A-100, Conshohocken, PA 19428.

Michael Murray, Alumni Relations

M. Murray

Michael P. Murray, CGS ’04, assistant director of classes and reunions in Development and Alumni Relations, died on February 9 from cancer; he was 29 years old.

A native of Staten Island, New York, Mr. Murray came to Penn to pursue an undergraduate degree in CGS after attending City University of New York (CUNY). He had previously worked on Wall Street working his way up from the mail room to a position in international finance.

While working on his degree, Mr. Murray founded the CGS Student Advisory Board in the spring of 2003. He believed that non-traditional students were lacking a voice and clear presence on campus. He was also a student worker in Wharton’s MBA Career Management office. In 2004 he joined the Alumni Relations office as an alumni officer, a position he held until his death. Bob Alig, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations, said, “Michael’s primary role in Alumni Relations as a member of our Classes and Reunions team was to support the Alumni Weekend programming and engagement of both our old guard and young alumni. Michael’s responsibilities clearly reinforce his deft touch with the diversity of Penn’s alumni, but his warmth, commitment and enthusiasm for Penn will be his legacy.”

Mr. Murray is survived by his mother, Diane; father, Philip; sister, Zandra, brother, Philip Jr.; his grandparents, Geroge and Ruby Royal, and Philippia Murray;and nephew, Michael. Memorial donations may be sent to the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org.



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 21, February 15, 2005


February 15, 2005
Volume 51 Number 21


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