Interview with Curt Harris Nov 14, 2011
Marcia: Curt, tell me about your childhood.
Curt: Well, I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My Dad died of a heart attack when I was only six years old. He was 41. He had been in the 4th Calvary, the last unit on horseback. In WWII, he was hit with a lot of shrapnel. We don’t know if that had anything to do with his heart attack. So my Mom was left to raise three boys. We were a good Catholic family, going to Catholic schools. We were good kids and never got into trouble. My Mom believed in a good education and a mid-west work ethic. She passed away five years ago. She was a child of the depression…saving everything and very, very thrifty! She worked most of her life, until 75, at a bakery.
Marcia: Were you a good student?
Curt: Not exactly..I was an underachiever, however I did receive “Student of the Year” in drafting! I loved sports though and was an avid swimmer.
Marcia: So what and who were your main influences during that time?
Curt: Boy Scouts, sports, and the YMCA! In that order. My first scout master, Don Koetzle, instilled in me a code of ethics. I loved the outdoor activities. I still remember the scout pledge! My second leader gave me opportunities in leadership positions. When I moved to Colorado, I helped out by teaching Boy Scouts winter camping.
In sports, I was influenced by my really great baseball coach, Don French. He always went beyond what was necessary and he loved kids. I mostly played first base. I later coached my son’s baseball teams. I also coached my daughters’ softball teams for six years. And they won four State championships and a National Championship.
As for the YMCA, I spent a lot of time swimming there.
Marcia: What about college and marriage?
Curt: I first majored in Biology. After the first semester, I transferred to Park Management. Then in 1974, Nixon cut the Park’s Forest Ranger program. By then, I had married my high school sweetheart, Barb. She got a job in respiratory therapy in Minnesota and I transferred to Minnesota State University at Moorhead. I had decided to change my major to economics and graduated in 1977. I helped pay for school by working at a pizza place and also by painting houses and even a church....inside and out.
Marcia: So how did you get out to Colorado?
Curt: I had passed though Colorado going out to Philmont scout ranch in New Mexico and had always thought I would like to live here. Barb had a brother that lived in Aurora. In June of ’77 I took a job with a finance company located on West Colfax and in two years was the Branch Manager. Later, I answered an ad for a manager training program for FirstBank just a few blocks from my office. I was hired as a trainee and worked at the Castle Rock FirstBank for a year and a half. In 1981, I was back at the corporate office on West Colfax. For twelve years, I was a bank auditor. Then when FirstBank wanted to expand, we had to file a new bank charter for each bank…no branch banking. I was involved in opening the first branch off ice in a grocery store in Colorado in King Soopers. Eventually, I became President of the Evergreen FirstBank in March of 1997. After I retired from the bank in 2001, I went back to school, DU, to get an international MBA. I completed all the course work, but did not complete the program because of my difficulty conquering Spanish, even after spending four weeks in Mexico in a language immersion program! I did eventually get a Masters degree in Finance.
Marcia: How did you connect with Evergreen Rotary?
Curt: As a bank President, I was “expected” to join a service club. Gary Madsen, a past president of the Evergreen Rotary club, had invited me and when the club changed over to a morning club I decided to join.
Marcia: I know you are a past president of Evergreen Rotary, but what keeps you in Rotary?
Curt: The fellowship and good friends. Plus I do have a passion to make the world a better place. I love to travel. I love to coach kids. I was a leader at Young RYLA for five years and now I’ve been with RYLA for five years – twice I have chaired RYLA. I am serving as the International Service Chair for Evergreen Rotary. When Mark Williams was club president, I had an opportunity to go with him to Africa and there I saw the needs of a third world country. I believe that we should give them the tools to be self-reliant and not victims of their circumstances. I was even published in as economist publication. My article was about Tanzania and how international trade is a good thing.
Marcia: Words of wisdom?
Curt: Remember that service is a reward in itself!
Marcia: Any grandchildren yet?
Curt: Barb and I have a son and two daughters. Or daughter Stacy has one daughter and our daughter Lisa, who lives in Texas, has two daughters. That’s it, so far.