Two men stand outside. One holds a framed award while the other holds a colorful glass trophy in the shape of a vase.
AU President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, presented Steve Ruby with the President's Award for Ruby's late wife, Paulette P. Harris, PhD, founding director of the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center, for a lifetime of outstanding support and philanthropy to the university. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Keel recognizes lifetime literacy advocate with President’s Award

Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, recently recognized the late Paulette P. Harris, PhD, founding director of the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center, with the 2024 President’s Award for a lifetime of outstanding support and philanthropy to the university.

Harris was a devoted philanthropist, first giving to the legacy institution Augusta College beginning in 1974, and later AU, for a total of four decades of giving. She also helped raise funds to support the Literacy Center over those years.

“Dr. Paulette Harris understood that literacy would not just open books, but it would also open doors of opportunity for thousands of children, adolescents and adults. Her memory lives on through the center’s mission and name,” said Keel. “We are forever grateful for the contributions of Dr. Harris to Augusta University and this community, and today we acknowledge her philanthropy through the President’s Award.”

a man stands in front of a photo of his late wife, Dr. Paulette P. Harris, for whom the literacy center is now named

Steve Ruby accepted the award in memory of his late wife during Jags in the Park on May 2.

“Paulette put so much of her life into the literacy center. She started from zero and grew the oak tree and, despite any complications, always managed to come out on top,” Ruby said proudly. “Paulette had such a passion for learning, and she strived to make certain that everyone she encountered had the skills they needed to succeed.”

In 1990 in a small building on Magnolia Drive near the Forest Hills Campus, Harris began helping adults who were struggling with literacy by giving them a place to go and the resources needed to learn to read. She soon began instructing children as well, and her efforts impacted thousands of people during her 31 years directing the literacy center.

During her career at Augusta University, Harris served as a faculty member, director of clinical/field experiences and as chairperson, certification officer and interim dean of the then College of Education. She held the distinguished Cree-Walker Professor of Education Chair for more than 20 years and was the longest-serving tenured faculty member of the University System of Georgia at the time of her passing in 2021.

In 2023, Ruby made a gift to name AU’s literacy center the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center to commemorate her legacy.

A man stands and shakes hands with a family in a large room prior to a celebration.
AU President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, and members of the family of Paulette P Harris, PhD, during the renaming ceremony of the Dr. Paulette P. Harris Literacy Center. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

The President’s Award is the highest award given each year to friends and supporters of Augusta University.

Jags in the Park, an outdoor pops-style concert held on the Summerville Campus, was organized as a tribute to Keel, who will retire June 30, after nine years as AU’s founding president and nearly 40 years of service in higher education. The event was held in lieu of the President’s Spring Celebration.

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
Avatar photo
Written by
Denise Parrish

Denise Parrish is Director of Communications for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic at 706-721-9760 or

View all articles
Avatar photo Written by Denise Parrish

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

graphic that says download jag mobile with icon buttons below that say download on app store and download on google play with a picture of a phone