Cover photo for Robert Rivers Harris's Obituary
Robert Rivers Harris Profile Photo
1933 Robert 2022

Robert Rivers Harris

May 26, 1933 — December 13, 2022

Athens, Georgia

Robert Rivers Harris, 89, of Athens, Georgia, died on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

Robert, known to his family and friends as Pete and to his colleagues as Bob, is survived by his wife, Ellen Jackson Harris, and their two sons, Robert Dover (Heather) Harris of Broadway, Virginia,  and Stephen Marsh (Shauna) Harris of Athens, Georgia; grandchildren Anna Irene Harris (age 9), Arlen Blue Harris (age 4) and Jackson Rivers Harris (16 months); and brothers Thomas (Connie) Harris of Hartfield, Virginia, Richard (Michelle) Harris of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and Michael (Patricia) Harris of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Robert was born on May 26, 1933, in Niagara Falls, New York, to Elizabeth Munson Harris and Charles Roberts Harris. After studies at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, he attended and graduated from Niagara University in Lewison, New York. He received a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1960. After teaching for two years at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri, he came to the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, where he taught in the Department of Classics for 57 years.

As a teacher, Robert was a beloved and colorful presence. In his Friday classes, he offered a weekly concert on the fretted clavichord he had constructed himself.  Referring to the instrument as his “boom box,” he carried it up the stairs each week to his Park Hall classroom. His students in Medical Terminology and Mythology courses remember his habit of illustrating lectures with chalkboard drawings, as well his joy in sharing with them his collection of postage stamps relevant to the topic at hand.

Robert was a lifelong gardener. From the 400 boxwoods that he planted himself when he and Ellen moved into their home in 1994 to the exuberant yearly display of tulips flanking a wide front sidewalk, his garden was both a showplace and a sanctuary. Although he always lamented the unpredictability of spring in Georgia, Robert never gave up on his dedication to the profusion of roses and lilies enclosed by those boxwoods and a grove of over 20 mature camellias, all interspersed with classical statuary.

Burial was held at Honey Creek Woodlands at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia on December 19, 2022. A memorial mass will be held on March 25, 2023 at 11:00 AM at the UGA Catholic Center at 1344 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA 30605, with a reception to follow in the center building. All are welcome to attend. Friends wishing to make a memorial gift are asked to consider the Northeast Georgia Food Bank ( and Meals on Wheels (

Lord & Stephens Funeral Home, EAST, Athens is in charge of arrangements.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Rivers Harris, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Mass and Reception

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

The Catholic Center at the University of Georgia

1344 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA 30605

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Private Graveside Service

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