Paul Harris '71

paul harris

Loving wisdom is not the same as having wisdom, but it is a good place to start. My father was chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Miami University, so I grew up surrounded by philosophers. I loved the lively conversations with professors and graduate students that took place almost daily in our home. I read Plato and Aristotle in high school and took courses at Harvard from John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Hilary Putnam, W.V.O Quine, Stanley Cavell, Rogers Albritton and Nelson Goodman. Burton Dreben was my thesis advisor. While at Harvard I also became interested in Eastern Philosophy, and I still enjoy reading and reflecting on books such as the Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Dhammapada.

I graduated in 1971 with a BA in Philosophy and Mathematics. I decided it was time for me to leave the ivory tower, but I took with me the philosophy perspective and skills I had learned. They have always served me well in both my work and my outside life.

My first job was in the Global Credit Department of the Chase Manhattan Bank in NYC. I soon realized I didn't want to settle down in NYC and returned to the Boston area, where I have lived ever since. I convinced the Harvard Office of Career Services to hire me to spend two days each week founding and leading the Harvard Task Force on Work. At the same time, I worked two other days each week at Data Resources, Inc., an economic consulting firm. Later, I spent 26 years at John Hancock, mostly in the Bond & Corporate Finance Group, where I was one of three investment professionals managing a $6 billion transportation portfolio. I was also a charter member of the group's international team.

I retired in 2006 at age 56. Since then I have spent ten years leading a seminar called "Creating a Hopeful World" with 30 elders, median age about 90. My philosophy background is especially helpful as we address a wide variety of global issues. I co-founded the Green Caucus, a group of over 75 town meeting members who promote sustainability at the local level. I was co-chair of Climate Action Brookline for three years and I am currently on the board.

As I look into the future, it seems to me that globalization will not be stopped no matter how much people feel threatened and resist it. The challenge is not to stop globalization, but to manage it wisely, so that people everywhere experience a net benefit in their lives. There is no better educational background for contributing to this process than a solid foundation in philosophy.