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Professor Harris is the author of Ancient Literacy (1989) and editor of Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition, a monograph series of which 22 volumes have been published, and associate editor of American National Biography. He has taught at Columbia since 1965 and lectured at universities throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and in Japan and Israel.
He is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (London), a member of the Advisory Council of the American Academy in Rome, Academia Europaea, the Finnish Society of Sciences and a Foreign Member of the Istituto di Studi Etruschi ed Italici (Florence).
At Columbia, he was chairman of the History Department from 1988-94 and has been chairman of the University Seminar on Classical Civilization and the Doctoral Program Subcommittee on Classical Studies. He is chairman of the Committee on Admissions of Columbia College and serves on the University Senate Commission on the Status of Women and the Housing Policy Committee.
He was educated at Oxford University and was a lecturer at Queen's University (Belfast) before joining the Columbia faculty as an instructor in 1965. He was named professor with tenure in 1976.
The Shepherd chair was established in 1960 to honor the distinguished Columbia historian who was a faculty member from 1896 until his death in 1934.