Irving B. Harris
Irving B. Harris was born on August 4, 1910 and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended Yale University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1931.
Irving’s success began with the purchase of Toni Home Permanent Company, a hair care company that he and his brother ran and eventually sold to Gillette in 1948. Following this, Irving turned his focus to managing assets. In 1957 Irving became a partner of R.J. Levy and Company, a New York Stock Exchange firm headquartered in New York. After Robert Levy’s death in 1962, Irving changed the firm’s name to the Harris Group, Inc.
In 1975, Irving left the institutional investment counseling business to focus exclusively on managing his own family’s assets. In 1986, Irving’s family investment office adopted its current name – William Harris Investors, Inc. – in honor of Irving’s father.
In addition to being a well-regarded businessman, Irving B. Harris dedicated a good part of his life to philanthropy. In particular, he became noted for developing programs that addressed the comprehensive needs of infants, toddlers and their families, and which promoted training for professionals who worked with “at risk” populations. Irving established the Irving Harris Foundation in 1946 primarily to make grants to organizations supporting policies, research, and programs focused on issues pertaining to early childhood development. More than half a century later, the Irving Harris Foundation continues to support the creation and development of programs and preventive practices that benefit infants, young children and their families, that promote social justice, that address inequality, that advocate for human rights, and that strive to enhance quality of life principally through the arts and humanities. He was instrumental in conceptualizing and establishing such well-respected institutions as Erikson Institute and the Ounce of Prevention Fund, as well as the highly ambitious Beethoven Project, which have served as models for the development of training and service programs across the country, including 500 Early Head Start programs in the United States. Mr. Harris also endowed the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, the Early Childhood Study Center at Yale University, the Aspen Music Hall, and the Harris Theater in Chicago. His vision and leadership earned him appointments to the National Commission on Children and the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children.