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News > Alumni Spotlight > Farewell to historian Dr Jonathan Harris

Farewell to historian Dr Jonathan Harris

“He held each of you in his heart”

Long-serving history teacher Jonathan Harris has been remembered as a dedicated academic and devoted family man whose Christian faith never wavered.

“Jonathan means ‘gift of God’. He was especially God’s gift to me,” his wife Ruth said in a statement read out at his funeral service in Trinity’s War Memorial Chapel.

She thanked staff and students past and present who sent letters and emails to the 69-year-old teacher during his protracted illness, saying: “They brought a tear to his eye every time. They crowned his 34 years of service at Trinity. He held each of you in his heart and wished you well.”

Dr Harris, who wrote the coffee table book “Mind, Body, Spirit” to mark Trinity’s centenary in 2013, was a “true Christian role model”, according to former Trinity student and fellow history teacher James St Julian.

“Far from being a dry, boring subject about dead, white males, Jonathan breathed life into history,” he said.

He recalled that when Dr Harris first taught by him as a Year 7 student, in pre-doctoral days, two teachers bore the same surname, so students differentiated them by nickname – “Eyebrows” Harris for one and “Jesus” Harris for Jonathan, whose beard reminded them of illustrations in their Good News bibles.

Susannah Arthur, a former Hockeyroo and one of his five daughters who all spoke at the service, described him as a sports tragic and an inspiration, saying: “Without his insights and techniques I would never have excelled at hockey. We trained, we planned, we dreamed; we were a team.”

She said the greatest gift from her parents was a lather-bound Bible inscribed by her father: “Your most precious travelling companion.”

All daughters spoke of Christianity as central to his life.

Johanna said Dr Harris loved God more than riches, and his faith never wavered “even in the most challenging circumstances”.

Catherine said he was a “deep seeker after truth and a strong believer in God’s providence”.

Esther said he always made her feel “intended for important work in God’s kingdom”.

Rebekah said most of his books were about “the saviour you loved, and it was him you modelled your life on”.

Former colleague and school chaplain Greg Webster, who conducted the service, said Dr Harris believed the “spiritual was the only proper canvas on which to sharpen the mind”.

Dr Harris joined Trinity in 1983 and retired in 2016.

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