Harris Family Endowment Names Women’s Basketball Head Coach Position
3/10/2022 3:00:00 PM
// Sarah VanMetre, Lindsey Aprahamian
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On Thursday (March 10), Michigan Athletics announced a $3 million dollar gift on behalf of Nicki Harris and the late J. Ira Harris† Shortly before his passing, Harris committed to a transformative gift to the athletic department with the desire to advocate for equity among women’s sports programs. By virtue of this gift, the head coach of the Michigan women’s basketball program, currently Kim Barnes Arico, will formally ascertain the title of the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach.
The Harris Family’s women’s basketball head coach endowment succeeds the program’s extraordinary 2020-21 season. Kim Barnes Arico led the Wolverines to two firsts in program history: a 10-0 start to the season and an appearance in the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen. “I am honored to hold the title of J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach,” Arico says. “The Harris family’s generosity in supporting Michigan Athletics is amazing, and I am especially grateful to serve in the first endowed coaching position for a Michigan women’s sport.”
The Harris family’s gift comes at an opportune time as the women’s basketball program continues its record-breaking 2021-22 season. The Wolverines celebrated seven consecutive weeks ranked in the top ten of the Associated Press women’s basketball poll; in doing so, the team also attained their highest ranking in program history at number four. Barnes Arico is the program’s all-time winningest coach; she recently earned the distinction of 2022 Big Ten Coach of the Year.
As the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation approaches in June 2022, J. Ira and Nicki Harris were inspired to support women’s sports by recognizing their impactful role in the history of Michigan Athletics. Title IX legislation has been tremendously efficacious in the development of women’s sports nationwide, and since its adoption, the University of Michigan women’s sports have brought home 32 national championships.
“We believe that women’s athletics leads to other people recognizing the role that women’s athletics has at the University of Michigan,” J. Ira Harris shared prior to his passing. “In making this gift to women’s basketball, we recognize the value that the program adds to Michigan Athletics and hope that others will share in our enthusiasm for Michigan women’s sports,” he continued. “I cannot think of a better person to hold the title than Kim Barnes Arico.”
J. Ira and Nicki Harris, longtime philanthropic partners of the University, have created an enduring legacy through their two coaching positions at the University. In 2014, the Harris family’s $10 million gift was named the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Position presently held by Jim Harbaugh† The Harris family further supported Michigan Football with a $3 million locker room expansion. In addition to Athletics, the Harris family’s generous contributions have benefitted other realms at the University of Michigan. In funding scholarships and professorships within the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and College of Literature, Science & Arts, the Harris family’s commitments to education are extensive. The Harris family has also supported the University of Michigan Museum of Art by providing funds that the museum used to acquire Behind the Walls, a Jaume Piensa sculpture.
A graduate of the Ross School of Business (BBA ’59), J. Ira Harris was the Chairman of his financial consulting firm JI Harris & Associates. He served on the University of Michigan Investment Advisory Committee, an alumni group that provides expertise to University investment personnel. In 2010, J. Ira Harris received the Ross School of Business’s Outstanding Alumni Award, and in 2014 the University of Michigan awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Nicki Harris, a University of Colorado alumna, is active in the art and education community. She is a board member of numerous foundations and exemplifies stellar dedication to these communities at-large.
Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics, echoes Arico’s sentiment: “The Harris family’s donation reflects their utmost generosity. We are saddened by the news of Ira’s passing, but his legacy will live on through his unwavering support for women’s sports. Michigan Athletics , and above all Michigan women’s basketball, will benefit tremendously. Manuel adds, “It’s donors like Ira and Nicki that pave the way for the University’s continued academic and athletic success.”