The OU Office for Student Affairs hosted a memorial ceremony and planted a tree on the south side of the Bizzell Memorial Library in support of OU President Joseph Harroz and the Harroz family.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Dean of Students Kristen Partridge said the ceremony and tree dedication were a way to honor President Harroz and his family after his father, an OU graduate, died of COVID-19 on Sept. 24, 2020.
During the ceremony, Partridge said the tradition of planting trees on OU’s campus has survived since OU’s first president, David Ross Boyd, arrived in Norman with a nursery of tree saplings. The tree that previously stood in the area was removed in January 2020 after it was infected with a fungus.
“In support (of) and great esteem for the family, including our newest president, we can think of no better way to continue this tradition in his name and to bring more beauty to our campus,” Partridge said during the ceremony.
Dr. Joseph Harroz Sr., President Harroz’s father, was a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist. He was a first-generation student who received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from OU.
Harroz said his father — born to a family of Lebanese immigrants who arrived in the United States in the late 1800s, the youngest of eight children and later a captain in the United States Air Force — serves as an example and inspiration to him and his family.
“My dad’s my hero,” Harroz said. “The way he approached life, the way he taught us and the way he interacted with his patients and people in our community makes him my hero since the beginning.”
Harroz’s family, including his mother, Mary Ann Harroz, attended the ceremony. Mary Ann Harroz said she and her husband were extremely happy after their son was named president of his father’s alma mater.
“My husband Joe was so very proud,” Mary Ann Harroz said. “(OU) was his alma mater. He didn’t think there was any other school besides OU. If Joe even considered going anywhere else (for college), he wouldn’t have paid.”
Harroz said he hopes the memory of his father will be an inspiration to every student passing into the library.
“In terms of the life of the university, (my dad) is just one story,” Harroz said. “But it is a story that I think is representative of what we can do. I think it also allows, hopefully, for some level of inspiration to our students that don’t have a big family history of going to college. And so for me, it’s personally meaningful in the ability to communicate the message that we hope people receive and hopefully lead lives that help more people.”