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Dr. Kelsie Brown Harder

A funeral mass for Dr. Kelsie Brown Harder, 84, of Potsdam, NY will be held on Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 2:00pm at the St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam with Rev. Garry Giroux and Rev. Raymond Moreau co-officiating. Mr. Harder passed away on Monday, April 9, 2007 at his home under the care of his family and hospice and palliative care of the St. Lawrence Valley.

Friends may call at the Garner Funeral Home in Potsdam on Wednesday, April 11, 2007 from 2-4 and 7-9.


Surviving Mr. Harder is his wife Louise of Potsdam, by four sons, Kelsie Terry of Reno, NV., Gerald William of Hanford, CA., and Denis Prince of Norwood and Frank Maron of Hammond, by two daughters, Anne Leslie Bedell of Newton, NJ., and Marcia Louise Harder of Washington, D.C., by a sister, Elsie Carrie Boyd of Linden TN, and by 11 grandchildren.


Mr. Harder is predeceased by his parents, by a son Thomas Brown Harder and by a brother Elvis Earl Harder.


Born August 23, 1922 on a large farm in Pope, Tennessee, the son of Prince William and Ollie Belle MaGee Harder, grandson of the Confederate Captain William Henry Harder.  Mr. Harder graduated from Cedar Creek Junior High School in 1937 and Perry County High School in 1939 and from Dickinson Business Institute, Nashville, TN, that same year. In 1942 Mr. Harder became employed with U.S. War Department, Milan, TN. He was selected to attend the War Department Senior Clerk School, Rock Island, Illinois and was then transferred to Sierra Ordinance depot, Herlong California as Chief Teletype Operator and Director of the Message Center.


In 1944 he entered the U.S. Army at the Presidio of Monterey, California, and was stationed at Camp Abbot, Bend, Oregon and later at North Fort Lewis , Tacoma, Washington. He was qualified as an expert Rifleman, Personnel Technician, and was discharged in 1946 as a Technical Sergeant and Sergeant Major of the 73rd Engineer Replacement Battalion, 11th Engineer Group, North Fort Lewis, Washington. He received the Army Commendation Medal for his service. He returned to Sierra Ordinance Depot as a Cost Accountant and then as Acting Administrative Assistant in the Post Engineers.


In 1947 he resigned from the War Department to attend Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He received a Bachelor’s Degree of Art’s in 1950, Magna Cum Laude, majoring in English, with minors in Philosophy and Spanish. He received a graduated English Scholarship and continued on to a Masters in Art’s with and English major and a minor in History.  He spent his college summers as a self-employed timber contractor. In 1954 he received a Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the University of Florida, majoring in English with a minor in Linguistics. On the basis of his academic achievement, he was invited to become member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, the two major honorary societies in the United States. He was also elected to Eta Sigma Phi, the honorary fraternity in the study of Greek and the Classics; and Sigma Delta Pi, the national honorary Spanish society.


In 1954 he joined the faculty at Youngtown University as an assistant professor and was promoted in 1960 to professor of English. He taught courses in Philosophy, English, Humanities and Business Administration. He began publishing academic articles while a student at the University of Florida and continued to publish widely in American Speech, literature, folklore dialect and onomastics(the study of name origin and their linguistic background.). At Youngstown University he served as Chair of the Honors Committee and taught in the honors seminar. He founded and served as adviser of the literary magazine, co-founded he Academic honors Society, and was active on many major committees. In 1984 he was invited to address the Youngstown University faculty and honors students on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the honors society. In 1961-62, he was president of the Ohio State Folklore3 Society; from 1959 to 1961, he was secretary-treasurer of the Northeastern Ohio College English Group.


In 1962, he was awarded a Fullbright Lectureship to teach American Literature and linguistics in India at the Universities of Punjab and Kurukshetra. While in India he lectured for the United States Information service throughout the country. Before returning to the United States in 1963 they toured they went around the globe to Hong Kong, Manila, Thailand, Singapore, Okinawa, Taiwan and Japan, where they climbed Mount Fuji.


In 1955, the members of the Youngstown Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, a national Social fraternity, invited him to be their counselor. He served in this capacity until 1964, and then accepted an appointment as governor of the New York District. In 2001, he was active in initiating a chapter of the fraternity at Clarkson University in Potsdam, and served as first chair of the Board of Governors for the fraternity.


In 1964 he accepted the position of Professor of English and Chair of the English and Drama Department at SUNY Potsdam. He received the Presidents Award for Scholarship and Creative Endeavor in 1994. In 1989, he was promoted to SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and was also selected for the prestigious SUNY Best Faculty Fellowship Program which also allowed him to visit and teach in the August Martin High School in inner-city New York.


Soon after his arrival at Potsdam, his biography was listed in the Who’s Who in America and was later listed in several national and international biographies. He held many academic positions, including two separate terms on the advisory board of American Speech, Executive Secretary-Treasurer and later President of the American Name Society, Primary Reader for SUNY Awards Committee, Consultant on NDEA Program for the United State Department of Education in Washington, Liaison officer of New York Education English Institute, Director of the Place Name Survey of the United States, Member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Geolinguistics, Editor of Names magazine, Member of the Executive Committee of the International Linguistics Society, Chair of the Usage Committee of the American Dialect Society, Consultant on Dictionary of American Regional English and provided more than 6,000 entries. Consultant on the proper names in all editions of the Random House Dictionary, and member of the International Committee on Onomastics Sciences. In 1990, he gave the Keynote address at the Library of Congress on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Board on Geographic names.


He was often invited by television and radio producers to comment on some aspect of personal and geographic names. He appeared on CNN television at the Trade Center in New York City, on Morning Exchange in Cleveland, on WXYZ (Kelley & Co.), Detroit, and on numerous radio programs.


In 1967 he attended and participated in the tenth International Congress of Linguistics, Bucharest, Romania, reading a paper, “Linguistics and American Onomastics,” and chairing the international meeting on onomastics. In 1972 he was awarded his second fullbright Professorship to track American literature and linguistics at the university of Lodz, Poland. His daughter Anne was born while in Poland. In 1978 he participated in the 13th International Congress on Onomastic Sciences, Jagallion University, Krakow, Poland, presenting a paper, “Onomastic Devices in literature, with Emphasis on Works by Thomas Pyncheon.”


Active in SUNY academic affairs, he was chair of the Faculty Assembly of Potsdam College and was instituting a new general education program. He also chaired the Conference of SUNY Campus Governance Leaders and later became the first chair of the new Governance Committee of the SUNY Senate. He also served on and chaired the SUNY evaluating committees.


He was active in community work, serving as president of the St. Lawrence Historical Society when the Silas Wright House was purchased in Canton. As a member of the Bicentennial Committee in 1976, he delivered speeches and participated in flag presentations. As a member of St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam he twice chaired the religious education committee; served as Lay Chair of the Pastoral Council; as lector, and as Eucharistic minister. He chaired the Adult Education Committee, which initiated the popular Sunday at ten program that featured outstanding religious denominational leaders in the Potsdam community. He managed several successful Little League teams while his sons were growing up and was active in Boy Scouts at the time.


He was the author of approximately one thousand academic articles, reviews, notes, poems, books, chapters in books and introductions into books. His interests in language is seen in his contributions to “The Dictionary of American Regional English” and Random House Dictionary”. Among his books are “Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada”, “Style and Meaning in the Works of Sir Thomas Urquhart”, “John Crowe Ransom: Poet, Economist, Critic”, Baby Names”, “Ultimate Name Book”, “ Names and Their Varieties”, and in collaberation  “Claims to Name: Toponyms of St. Lawrence County” and “Oxford Dictionary of American Proverbs”.


Besides his recognition as a distinguished teacher of literature and linguistics , he was an outstanding teacher in writing, many of his students becoming major writers, including T. Coraghessan Boyle, Jack DeBellis, Frank Polite, Anthony Zappia, Mark Tursi, Peter Conners, Anthony Leuzzi, and others. He was also active in modern literary articles, including initiating the Star Lake Writing Workshops, which attracted Krishna Vaid, James Dickey, Anais Nin, Paul engle, Vance Bourjaily and other noted writers as participants. In 1995 he chaired and directed the three-day conference on modern fiction held at SUNY Potsdam in honor of T. Coraghessan Boyle, a leading American short Story writer and novelist. The conference attracted leading literary figures to the campus including George Plimpton and the great novelist John Barth.  His latest book “Place Names in Franklin County”, will be published in 2008.


After his retirement, he and his wife Louise traveled extensively, including Turkey, the Scandinavian Countries, St. Petersburg, Spain, Portugal , Morocco,  China, Tibet, Fiji Islands, Bali, Australia and New Zealand. Although he has several books, he was not a collector, but just an avid reader. He was an eclectic person with interests in all learning, but always claimed that his one hobby was the study and teaching of language and literature. Contributions in his memory can be made to a charity of ones choice.


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