March 17, 1953 – May 23, 2015
Douglas Alan Harrell Sr. was a lifelong educator and a student of humanity. He was sociologist by training (he completed both undergraduate and graduate school at the University of California, San Diego) and leader in educational administration by profession with over forty years of experience. Mr. Harrell strove to work in the communities that are economically disadvantaged and impacted by histories of neglect and degradation. He saw these communities as filled with love, possibility, and dreams.
Starting as an elementary school teacher, Mr. Harrell taught his students to beware the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” a grinning little imp who appears whenever words like “I can’t” are spoken. As he moved into administration, e.g., as Race and Human Relations Facilitator, he served the cause of social justice. Moving up the ranks to Principal at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, in locales including East Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Diego, he catalyzed students to achieve both academically and as human beings. The cornerstone of his philosophy was “compassionate leadership.”
Working at Edison School Inc., he was appointed to a Vice President position, supervising Principals throughout California. They were in the process of offering him a national position, however his love for his San Diego family superseded this professional move and he returned to San Diego. He retired from King-Chávez Community Schools as Chief Academic Officer in 2013, but continued teaching and inspiring school leaders by leading an Administrative Credentialing Program for the San Diego County Office of Education and supporting charter school start-ups. In his last days he was flooded with sentiments telling of all of lives he had transformed.
We cannot end without mentioning his love for basketball. Profoundly gifted, he made it as far as summer tryouts for the NBA before blowing out his knee. From humble beginnings in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh delivering the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper (at one time the largest African American newspaper in the nation), he was a continuous seeker. Basketball took him across the country and to college. Through this graceful sport of improvising bodies in space, a fierce brotherhood of competitors, he created the opportunity to let his abilities as a thinker and motivator outshine even his prodigious talents in sports. We must all now agree that the NBA’s loss was society’s gain.
He conducted his life with a twinkle in his eyes, a smile on his face, and inspiration flowing from his words. Let us now all strive for greatness and love, which are his legacy. He realized our powers to create our own destinies and how all of culture is a human-made. To quote his final words: “Play ball!”
Mr. Harrell is survived by his mother Evelyn Dorothy Marie Harrell, three remaining siblings Stephen Alexander Harrell, Alexis Marie Harrell, and Cheryl Anne Harrell (not forgetting the dearly departed Patricia Harriet Elizabeth Harrell), four children Elan Alexander Harrell, Anika Eleni Harrell, Alana Nicole Harrell, Douglas (Fox) Alan Harrell Jr., and two grandchildren, Dayasagara Basil Harrell and Jason Ryan Diaz, along with many loving family members. His children could not be prouder of him, just as he was of them. He will always be loved and missed.