Pictured at the Nov. 19 presentation of the first John Harrison '84 Magnanimitas Award are keynote speaker Lock Reddic '84, Marguerite Pippenger '23, Kerrie Harrison, and Assistant Head of School Shaw Wilson '84.
The inaugural John Harrison ’84 Magnanimitas Award was presented Friday, Nov. 19 to Marguerite Pippenger '23, who was nominated by her peers and faculty and chosen by a committee of faculty members, "as one who embodies Harrison’s qualities of resilience, grace, kindness, dignity, and compassion."
The annual award recognizes a student with relentless positivity, passion, and selflessness while giving to others, the school, and the community with a true greatness of spirit. In speaking to Upper School students in the keynote address, Lock Reddic ’84 said the award is a small gesture recognizing significant achievements. “When a recipient is nominated and chosen each year, you will enable us to honor and pay tribute to our friend...it’s our way of saying to John and the entire Harrison family, 'you were extraordinary, and we are going to honor your life by continuing your legacy indefinitely.' ”
As the award recipient, Pippenger received $500 to use in whatever creative, philanthropic efforts that are most meaningful to her. “The Magnanimitas Award gives us the opportunity to celebrate John Harrison and tell the story of Baylor’s great culture of philanthropy every year,” said Shaw Wilson '84, assistant head of school. “Marguerite truly embodies the spirit of giving while demonstrating a real love for her community and for Baylor, much like John did.”
Harrison was a recipient of Baylor’s 2008 Distinguished Service Award, served as the Atlanta representative to Baylor’s alumni board from 2004-07, helped organize numerous events in Atlanta, and coordinated his 20-year class reunion. "He was the 1984 class representative in every sense of the definition -- always making sure that every member of the class participated in giving every year," said Ramona Glascock, director of annual giving. "He made giving to Baylor a fun game that kept his class engaged with the school and with each other."
In 2017, Harrison was named Baylor’s director of major gifts and became director of institutional advancement in 2018. He died on Nov. 22, 2020, after courageously battling the life-long effects of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and resulting kidney disease.
Unknown to many, Pippenger and her family shared a special friendship with the Harrisons. As his illness progressed, they pitched in to assist in any way they could. Before long, Pippenger and her sister, Janie '21, were picking up Harrison on their way to school and dropping him off outside of his office in Hunter Hall. "I think my favorite memories of John are probably riding to school every morning with him. Janie and I shared so many laughs and it genuinely made my day so much brighter. My favorite was when we accidentally let him go to work with two different shoes on, he was so mad at us but we couldn’t help but laugh. I could go on and on sharing stories about John," says Pippenger. "Dunkin' Donuts were a pretty important staple in our relationship if I’m being honest," she laughs. "Every morning we would pressure Janie, who was driving, to get us doughnuts or stop somewhere and get a treat before school."
When Harrison passed away over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2020, Pippenger's thoughts turned to Harrison's colleagues in Baylor's development office. "I was trying to think of something special to do for his co-workers that would help brighten their day on that first day back from break. My mom had the idea to bring in the doughnuts, but I was nervous because I knew how hard it would be to even walk up to Hunter and see his empty office. I placed them on the conference table and then ran into Scotty Smith '89 and we talked about how John loved doughnuts. I saw how much it meant to them, but it also really helped me get over that hump of going back to school without him."
The John Harrison ’84 Magnanimitas Award and Scholarship Fund was launched in early 2021 thanks to the generosity of Harrison’s family and friends. In fewer than 12 months, $1.3 million was raised for an endowed fund that will support the annual award and an additional annual scholarship for a returning Upper School student who is selected for the honor in 2022-23.
"One thing people need to know about John was how strong he was," adds Pippenger. "Three days a week he had to sit in a dialysis chair which left him emotionally and physically exhausted. But after every dialysis treatment, he came out of his house with a smile. He was the most positive man I have ever met in my whole life. I mean -- his job was talking to people all day, and he loved every second of it. He had so many physical challenges in his life, but he managed to persevere and seize the day. He truly did have greatness of spirit."
The award ceremony took place on Friday, Nov. 19 during Upper School assembly, and was attended by members of Harrison's family, friends from the Class of 1984, and was followed with a reception in Hedges Library.
Click here for a photo gallery of the events.
Watch a video of the award presentation below.
"Margie is also the epitome of a humble human being. She has so many incredible accomplishments, but she always directs the attention on others, and is the best friend to everyone."
"She embodies and continues to promote so much of what Mr. Harrison stood for. I never knew Mr. Harrison but from the stories she has told of him, I can say he was a phenomenal person. I’ve served with Margie on Honor Council and her intelligence and grace were vividly present in the discussions she helped lead. Her spirit for her school, and especially her friends, shines like a beacon to all around her and I cannot think of a more deserving individual for this award."
(For information about giving to the John Harrison ’84 Magnanimitas Award and Scholarship Fund, please email Anna Hall, Director of Major Gifts).