‘It gives you hope’: Franco Harris remembered during fundraising gala, students awarded scholarships

PITTSBURGH — Five Pittsburgh Public Schools’ seniors will be getting some financial help for college thanks to a new scholarship honoring the late Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.

At a fundraising gala Saturday night, supporters of The Pittsburgh Promise gathered for a night of celebration. It’s something they hold every three or four years.

“The purpose of this one, and by the way we planned this one two years ago, the purpose of this one was to honor our founding chairman, Franco Harris,” said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise. “And, he made it this close.”

Harris passed away in December, just days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

It was his work off the field, specifically with school students, that lead the Pittsburgh Promise to honor him.

“Darn it, I wanted him here in the flesh,” Ghubril said. “I wanted him embracing. I wanted him here to hear us honor him and honor them.”

Being honored wasn’t something Harris really wanted. But, Ghubril said Harris eventually signed off on it, because as his wife, Dana, said, it helped the kids.

“It was never about him,” Dana Harris said. “It was what could he do to make life better for others.”

To make life better for some Pittsburgh high school students, The Pittsburgh Promise launched The Franco and Dana Harris Scholars Fund.

Five Pittsburgh Public School seniors were named as the inaugural recipients.

Each of those students will get $5,000 each year, or $20,000 for the duration of a four-year program.

“That money came from memorial contributions that people gave after Franco’s passing,’ Ghubril said. “Some gave $5, some gave $10, some gave $1,000.”

In total, the fund raised $110,000 for this year’s class.

Harris said she’s thrilled to see these students getting this financial aid in her late husband’s honor.

“It gives you hope. It gives you hope for the future,” Harris said. “I always say, look at what a scholarship did for Franco, and look at what Franco did for the city. That’s what I hope for all these kids. I hope they have the opportunity to open the doors that come with education and come with giving to your community.”

Their son, Doc, hopes to see the fund continue to grow, so it can help more students every year.

“I think it’s going to be a generational impact across this area,” Harris said.

The Pittsburgh Promise is raising money for the Harris Scholar fund. So far, they have enough money for three more seniors to receive money next year.

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