Lori L. (Simpers) Harris

Lori L. (Simpers) McCarelLori L. (Simpers) Harris earned her B.A. in 1994 as part of the Liberal Arts Management Program (LAMP) at Virginia Wesleyan, where she was also a Founding Sister of Tri Sigma Sorority and a member of the Marlin field hockey team. Since 2007, she has served in various capacities in the College's Center for Advancement—including roles as Director of Annual Giving, Director of Special Gifts, and Director of Corporate Relations—and she was recently appointed Executive Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations. Her professional experience and love and appreciation for the culture, heritage, and traditions of Virginia Wesleyan will serve the College well as it aims to increase alumni service and engagement and secure needed resources from Marlin graduates, friends, and other constituents, notes Dr. Mort Gamble, Vice President for Advancement. McCarel has three children, Zac McCarel ’18, Kylea McCarel ’20, and Connor McCarel, and her fiancé, Joe Harris, is a 1994 Virginia Wesleyan graduate.

How did your time at Virginia Wesleyan University shape the person you are today?

My professors set me up for success in a variety of ways, both academic and personal. They helped me realize more diversity inside of myself than I had ever imagined because of the opportunities to dabble in a variety of experiences and the numerous opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. That’s the value of a liberal arts education. The values I developed at VWU have in turn influenced my family, as two of my children have chosen to enroll in Virginia Wesleyan and are enjoying many of the same benefits I did.

What are some of your favorite memories of friends, professors or mentors at VWU?

My favorite professors and mentors were David Garraty, Linda Ferguson, and Kathy Merlock-Jackson, each for different reasons, and they are now lifelong friends and colleagues. Mr. Garraty taught me, whether he realized it or not, how to balance priorities between academics and sports. Although I didn’t take classes with Dr. Jackson until I was further into my studies, she quickly became a source of admiration for me. Dr. Jackson opened my eyes to a new interest in communications that I wish I had more time to explore. Dr. Ferguson, who is now the faculty liaison to the VWU Alumni Council, had a subtle way of teaching without us realizing we were actually learning – we were having too much fun. She had a unique talent of drawing us in by taking us out, a huge proponent of “hands-on learning” before it was the trend it is today. Another favorite memory is my participation in founding the Zeta Pi chapter of Tri Sigma here on campus. When I first arrived, it was a club, Delta Zi, until we transitioned it into a sorority with the help of a group of girls from the club. The gift of social media has helped us all remain close friends despite being in different locations across the country.

How are Wesleyan alumni different from other college graduates?

When you meet a VWU alum, even if you don’t know them personally, you experience an immediate connection and warmth that feels like family because you share so many relatable experiences, friends, and professors. I’ve also been impressed with the positive impact Virginia Wesleyan alumni have on current students, in their communities, and around the world.

Anything else about your VWU experience you’d like to share?

My VWU experience has morphed from student to employee, and it still feels like family. I feel very fortunate to have served my alma mater for the past nine years, and I'm excited to continue my service. There is huge potential for growth to recognize, communicate and engage with more of our alumni, and I look forward to helping build upon that at Virginia Wesleyan.