The Phyllis Harris Scholarship

The Phyllis Harris Scholarship Fund builds the skills and experience of students who have volunteered or been employed in the general field of human sexuality and who intend to pursue a related career.

This legacy endowment fund honours the dedication and goals of Walter and Phyllis Harris who were strong advocates of choice and autonomy for every person. The Harris Family created a scholarship fund to encourage future leaders in sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Students have been supported through this legacy gift for over 20 years and will continue to have access to meaningful work through funded summer placement opportunities. Action Canada is deeply grateful for the opportunity to share mentorship and expertise with developing leaders in the field who can benefit from the placements offered through the Phyllis Harris Scholarship.

Throughout her career as a public health nurse, Phyllis volunteered with Planned Parenthood, though this was a time when abortion was not legal. When interviewed in the Edmonton Journal about her 1981 volunteer award, Phyllis was asked how she became interested in this type of work.

“I personally like to plan my life and be in charge of what happens to me as far as possible. Even as a young student nurse, I was appalled by the negative effects on individual and family life of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.”

Phyllis was able to give personal support through her career. With her husband and other supporters, she started a chapter of Planned Parenthood to break down barriers and allow all people to make decisions about their own bodies. “Much of the activity in the early years was focused on public education to promote changes in the criminal code, which did occur in 1969.”

In the sexual and reproductive health and rights movement we “stand on the shoulders of giants,” learning from and adapting expertise built through the hard won victories of advocates, volunteers, and health workers like Phyllis and Walter Harris. As we continue pressing forward to connect movements and organizations across Canada and the world, we are honoured to help advance their goal to support future leaders in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Updated on 2020-05-19