J. Ira Harris, longtime Michigan football friend, has died

PALM BEACH, Florida. — J. Ira Harris, retired president of JI Harris and Associates, and longtime friend of the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program, died at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, 21 February. Harris, 83, was an internationally recognized expert in the field of mergers and acquisitions.

Graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1959, Harris’ generosity and love for the institution was evident. He received the 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award from the Ross School of Business, and in April 2012 the University awarded Harris an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

In 2014, J. Ira and Nicki Harris, through the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Foundation, made a leadership gift of $10 million to the University of Michigan Department of Athletics during the campaign Victors for Michigan. The contribution provided the necessary endowment resources for the football program to help students excel in the classroom and in competitive and support facilities. In recognition of their donation, the head football coaching position was officially known as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. Harris has also been an active advocate for equity among women’s athletic programs, culminating in a significant gift at the end of 2021 recognizing the vital role of women’s athletics at the University of Michigan.

Harris was president of the financial advisory firm JI Harris & Associates. He has served as a member of the University of Michigan Investment Advisory Committee, the President’s Advisory Group, the Steering Committee of the Michigan Difference Campaign Steering Committee, the Victors for Michigan Campaign Leadership Council, and of the A. Alfred Taubman Leadership Advisory Council. Medical Research Institute.

The Harris family have also been outstanding supporters of other areas at the University of Michigan. They have established scholarships, endowed chairs, and provided support for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

In the Chicago area, Ira was a lifetime trustee of Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital Corporation, and the Museum of Science and Industry. He was a life director of the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the National Center for Learning Disabilities in New York, and the Big Shoulder Fund for the Chicago Parochial School System. In the past, Harris served as a director of the Chicago Community Foundation and served on the boards of Manpower Corporation, Caremark Corporation, and Watsco Corporation.

Harris was the director of the Palm Beach Civic Association and the board of directors of the Kravis Center in Palm Beach. He has also served on the investment committees of the Polk Brothers Charitable Foundation. Harris was the founding chair of the Harris Obesity Prevention Effort (HOPE) project at New York University Langone Medical School.

After graduating from Michigan, Harris embarked on a career in finance, where he helped manage top companies such as William Blair & Company LLC, Salomon Brothers, and Lazard Freres and Company, as well as his own investment banking business. As an emerging M&A expert, Harris became internationally recognized for his ability to negotiate multi-million dollar financial deals.

Harris is survived by his wife, Nicki, and their three children: Bradley, Jacqueline and Jonathan. The Harrises also have six grandchildren.

Here are the statements of Warde Manuel and Jim Harbaugh within the sports department:

Keep Manuel, Donald R. Shepherd Athletic Director

We are saddened by the loss of a great friend in Ira Harris, and our hearts go out to his wife, Nicki, and his family. Ira and Nicki have had such a positive impact on Michigan Athletics and their local communities that it’s hard to put into words. They proudly endowed our position as head football coach in 2014, forever tying their family’s longstanding relationship with our program. Ira’s love for Michigan has extended far beyond athletics to her varied and meaningful contributions to our campus. He will be greatly missed.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach

The loss of Ira Harris touches in many ways. A big man from a Michigan family, Ira was my mentor when I came to Chicago to play for the Bears.

As her son Jon told me today, “remember the good times”. I can attest to many great times, whether it was attending sporting events in Chicago, talking about Michigan football, or helping me with my investments, Ira was always there for me and I felt like the fourth child in the Harris family.

He was an influential friend, trusted advisor, and known agent to myself and the Harbaugh family. I am a better person to have known and associated with Ira. It is an honor for me to represent the family with the appointment of my position, the family’s head football coach J. Ira and Nicki Harris. Today, I mourn the loss of a dear friend, but I also have fond memories of our nearly four decades together.

We have lost a very special man. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nicki, and their children, Brad, Jackie and Jon, and their grandchildren.

Rest in peace, Ira, and Go Blue!

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