Georgian runs in the Harris family

Gary Harris used to ride his skateboard around the parking lots at the Barrie Campus and listen to bands on Friday nights from outside the cafeteria as a teenager. He had no idea that he would end up working at his neighbourhood college or the impact Georgian would have on his family. 

Approaching his 22-year workiversary and just in time for Family Day, we connected with Gary and his son Jay to hear how those days of kickflips led to the Harris’ calling Georgian a second home. 

Jay and Gary Harris, father and son in Georgian shirts, pose for photo
Jay and Gary


What do you do at the college? I’m a professor in Engineering and Environmental Technologies and am currently Program Coordinator of the Mechanical Technician – Precision Skills and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs. I bring to the classroom strong connections with industry and those connections have deepened over the years thanks to our great partners. There are lots of fantastic jobs in this industry and I love sharing my passion and opportunities with students. 

How did you end up working at Georgian? When I was in industry working as a mould maker, I travelled extensively. It was difficult with three young children since I was gone for several days at a time. Most of my work was teaching preventative maintenance and operational standards to companies that purchased our equipment. To make more time for my family, I took a position at a local company and worked there for five years. One day my wife and I were having coffee on our back deck, and I saw an ad in the newspaper for a mould maker at Georgian. I told my wife that I would get that job…and I never looked back! 

What’s your experience been like? I feel very fortunate to work at Georgian and I tell all my friends that I won the lottery.

Not only has this been a good place to grow my career but Georgian has become part of our family. All three of my children – Ashley, Jay and Jeff – are Georgian alumni and successful in their lives and careers. Even my wife Kaarine has taken courses at the college. A lot of our personal networks, including close friends, are full of Georgian connections, too. Lots of wonderful memories here. 

Any memories that stand out? A few of us from Georgian were in a band – JDM – and we performed for many years in the college’s Benefit Concert, which was a variety show to raise funds for students in financial need. It was a lot of fun and brought the community together in support of students. We sort of became the college’s resident band for a while and played at many other events, including Georgian’s 50th anniversary celebrations and various fundraisers.  

What’s it like having Jay work here? I’m very proud of him – of all my kids. I get to watch Jay thrive and build his own Georgian career. Sometimes he’ll come over after work and we’ll chat about our days. I love being able to share that with him. 

What’s your favourite thing to do together? We love watching sports (Go Leafs!). We also both enjoy being outdoors, whether it’s camping, boating or fishing. I cherish any time I get with him. 

Any plans for Family Day? We’re having a family dinner and campfire. The day will be a Mexican theme with piñatas for our grandson. Our family is very close, and we spend a lot of time together. 

Collage of photos of the Harris family; adults holding babies, Gary helping grandson blow out candles on a cake
Ashley is a Social Service Worker grad and Jeff a Precision Machining Trades apprenticeship grad and Red Seal Machinist


How did you end up at the college? I occasionally came to see my dad at work and walk around the campus. I even remember Georgian holiday parties held in the Athletic Centre when I was a kid. While I entertained offers from other schools, Georgian already felt like home. I took both the Recreation and Leisure Services and Business Administration programs. 

What was your experience like as a student? I had an incredible student experience and made lifelong friends. I didn’t waste any time getting involved in the extracurriculars Georgian has to offer. I was fortunate to land a student position in the Athletic Centre, was a member of the XC running team, and joined the rock-climbing club.  

Any moments that stand out? I travelled with my dad to Chandigarh, India, to deliver student speaking seminars, proctor exams, and explore India in our free time. Now that was memorable!  

What made you choose a career here? What makes Georgian so incredible is the people. I initially started in municipal recreation prior to applying for a job at the college. With so many happy memories being at or stemming from Georgian, I wanted to come back and contribute. Georgian provided me with a quality education and work when I graduated. I’m very thankful for that!    

What do you do at Georgian? I’ve spent the last year and a half as the Senior Integrated Service Officer in the Office of the Registrar. I oversaw and supported operations of the Client Service team for Barrie, Orillia and Owen Sound. Before that, I was a Student Systems Support Officer and Admissions Officer. Currently, I’m a few weeks into my new role as ONEcard Officer, which is exciting (ONEcard is the official Georgian identification card). 

What’s it like having your dad work at Georgian too? It’s awesome!

How many people can walk the halls of their workplace and see family? We both know everyone from each other’s offices. While most of our conversations revolve around sports, it’s nice to talk about work here and there. Our work paths don’t cross too often, though it’s great to grab a coffee when we’re on campus together.   

How close are you and your dad? We’re very close. He and my mom were very involved when we were kids. He coached my brother and I in hockey, took us camping, fishing…you name it. We’ve shared a lot of memories over the years. He’s someone I love and certainly still look up to.  

Family is very important to me. Our family is fortunate to live within 30 to 40 minutes of each other. My sister and I bought a house together, so I love getting to spend time with her and my little nephews. My brother and I also play hockey together every week, which is our favourite sport.   

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