Kennesaw State honors former administrator Harris Travis with new exhibit

KSU President Kathy Schwaig and Georgia Travis at the event honoring the late Rev. Harris Travis.

Photo above: President Kathy Schwaig and Georgia Travis at the event honoring the late Rev. Harris Travis.

[This article by Amanda Cook, with photos by Judith Pishnery, first appeared on the Kennesaw State University website, republished with permission]

Excited gasps punctuated a Saturday afternoon in Kennesaw State University’s Engineering Technology Center as a crowd gathered around the unveiling of a new, permanent exhibit honoring the late Rev. Harris Travis.

The unveiling took place during the second annual Hornets Homecoming, an event hosted by the Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) Alumni Society honoring those who graduated from the institution. Replacing the traditional gold and black colors of Kennesaw State, SPSU’s green and white colors decked the halls, the tables, and the walls all over campus. KSU President Kathy S. Schwaig, donning a green blazer, was on hand to welcome the crowd.

“What an honor it is to recognize Rev. Travis and to share in this moment with his family and friends. It means so much to unveil this exhibit to someone who was a dear friend to so many and an inspiration to all,” Schwaig said.  “This tribute honors the legacy of an academic, of an engineer, and a pastor, and of someone who had a tremendous impact on our community.”

Prior to his death last year, Travis served as the first African American chief academic officer of SPSU from 1982 to 1998. After that, he was the senior pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. He was also an engineer, educator, academic administrator, author, and humanitarian.

The exhibit, titled “All Joy,” was curated by Catherine Lewis, associate vice provost in the Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books. It consists of four large panels containing personal pictures from Travis’ life, and it details the important role he played in the history of Kennesaw State and the community.

“Dr. Travis played an important part in helping grow SPSU, and his leadership came at a critical time in the university’s history,” Lewis said. “We’re so pleased to unveil this exhibit about his life and legacy to help inspire our next generation of leaders.”

Family and friends came from all over for the special occasion including one of Travis’ daughters, Cheryl Gilbert.

“I’m just overjoyed and in awe,” Gilbert said. “We’re so, so thankful that he’s being recognized. Dad touched so many lives. He was a believer, he loved everyone, and he always wanted to share his faith and his knowledge. I’m so proud of his legacy and of this tribute to him.”

Harris Travis exhibit

The decision to unveil the tribute at the Hornets Homecoming was to further drive home the importance of the role that SPSU plays in the history of Kennesaw State as a whole. Clay Long, associate director of alumni and constituent engagement, said weeks of planning went into the event.

“The legacy of SPSU matters to us and it matters to them that they’re recognized,” Long said. “The Marietta Campus will always be their campus and where they got their degree, where they changed their life, where they changed their family’s lives. Seeing their faces as they reminisce makes all the planning worth it.”

Another of Travis’ daughters, Verdonna Malone, said her father would have been beside himself to see the turnout to celebrate the history of SPSU as well as of those celebrating his extraordinary life and service.

“He would be joyous,” Malone said. “He would be so happy that you even thought of him. He was a very humble man. He was a man of many talents, and to be recognized for all areas of his life is so special. He was so many things, but most importantly, he was my dad, and I looked up to him. He would be so thrilled to see that his legacy was seen as important.”

– Story by Amanda Cook

Photos by Judith Pishnery