Franco’s Fitting Legacy

Penn State renames its Pittsburgh Center in honor of Franco Harris.

photo of Franco Harris Center Pittsburgh Center by Trisha Gates


To honor the legacy of the late Franco Harris, university leaders were joined by his family, long-time friend Sue Paterno ’62 Lib, and others in December to dedicate the newly renamed Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center at Penn State. The Pro Football Hall of Fame running back died in December 2022, leaving behind a base of fans that spanned well beyond his days playing for the Nittany Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

President Neeli Bendapudi said Harris ’72 H&HD was an ambassador for Penn State and an outstanding community leader. “Franco’s commitment to excellence, both on and off the field, and his dedication to philanthropy and public service exemplify the values we hold dear as a university,” she said. “In renaming the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center in his honor, we affirm our commitment to continuing his legacy through programming and resources that positively impact, empower, and enrich the youth, students, families, and communities of the Pittsburgh region and beyond.


President Bendapudi with guests at Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center
SERVING THE STEEL CITY: President Neeli Bendapudi, Dok Harris, Dana Dokmanovich Harris, and Sue Paterno celebrate the opening of the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center at Penn State. Courtesy.


”The newly renamed center, which serves the Greater Pittsburgh area from its location in the city’s Hill District, houses a variety of Penn State Outreach programs, including the Readiness Institute, City Semester, and National Green Infrastructure Certification Program. Other programs include career services, alumni meetups, and Penn State Extension programs, such as Pennsylvania 4-H, Urban and Community Forestry, Nutrition Links, Master Gardeners, and more. Each program, working alongside commonwealth campuses and colleges, serves Pittsburgh initiatives that are grounded in increasing the impact of Penn State’s land-grant mission.

Dana Dokmanovich ’72 H&HD, Harris’ widow, said the commitment to service aligns with her husband’s mission in life. “Franco was forever building bridges for what’s right, what’s kind. He wouldn’t hang up his own photo or jersey on the wall, but he would use the space he had to make a difference,” she said.