More than 60 years ago, a student created a glorious gift for the University, and his bequest continues to preserve its beauty
Hall of Letters 213, better known as the Browsing Room, is regarded by many University of Redlands students and alumni as one of the most iconic classrooms on campus. Among the room’s well-known features are the beautiful stained glass windows.
Edmund Gordon Harris Jr. ’54 studied under Art Professor Richard Beaman and English Professor Caroline Mattingly. With the encouragement of these two faculty members, along with support from his classmates, Harris completed an honors project that proved to be a creative blend of these two disciplines and demonstrates the richness of a liberal arts education at Redlands.
Harris’ project resulted in the design, hand-building and installation of two stained glass windows, inspired by characters from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: The Prioress and The Knight. Harris created these windows, which were installed just days before he graduated, by fusing pieces of different hued stained glass on top of one another without further painting or outlining. Forming each element by hand, this unique process also involved running two kilns simultaneously to create the windows, each estimated to contain 500 glass pieces. In a 2005 correspondence with University Archivist Jim Hofer, Harris recalled that because of his own fear of heights, Beaman helped with the project by hanging out of the window to apply waterproofing mastic to the exterior panels.
Harris reported that each window took 15 hours to assemble and 100 hours to construct, excluding time for cutting and firing—two other windows intended for the north-facing windows were designed but not completed; Harris had intended to return to campus to complete the project after graduation, but his life’s journey took him elsewhere.
After enlisting in the Air Force, Harris later became an apprentice with the well-known glass house of Judson, located in Los Angeles. He graduated from the Monterey Army Language School in Russian and worked as a publicist for Capitol Records. After working in the same capacity for the Committee of Fine Arts at UCLA, Harris was named the school’s director of fine arts production and lectures in 1972.
Upon retirement to Bellingham, Wash., Harris was heavily involved in the preservation of the Mount Baker Theatre, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He died on July 22, 2013, and upon his passing, his estate included a bequest specifically to support the Browsing Room, the hallmark of his Redlands experience. Harris’s original handiwork can still be seen today on the room’s east-facing windows, and his legacy gift helps to ensure this special learning space for future generations.
Special thanks to Janet Carver ’54, Jackson Law, Jr. ’54 and University Archivist Michele Nielsen ’99 for their contributions to this story.