John C. Harris

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Fresno​

Born on his parents’ farm on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, John Harris hails from a family whose history in farming dates back to 1916. He graduated from the University of California, Davis, in 1965, with a degree in agricultural production. Following graduation he served two years in the U.S. Army as an officer via ROTC at UC Davis.

In 1981, Mr. Harris became the sole shareholder and CEO of Harris Farms, a position he continues to hold. The Harris Farms Group includes Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant, Harris Ranch Beef Company, Harris Feeding Company, Harris Farms Thoroughbred Division and Harris Fresh.

With a passion for horses, Mr. Harris has been raising and racing horses since his early teens. He has been active in breeding and racing thoroughbreds, and the Harris Farms Thoroughbred Division has produced several California-bred champions, including California Chrome, the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Mr. Harris was appointed to serve on the California Horse Racing Board and served as chairman for several years. He served five terms as president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and is a member and past steward of the Jockey Club and the Breeder’s Cup Board of Directors. Mr. Harris has been the recipient of numerous awards including Livestock Man of the Year Award (1988), UC Davis’ Award of Distinction (1992) and Fresno Chamber of Commerce Agriculturist of the Year (2014). His service with community organizations included Saint Agnes Medical Center, the California Cattlemen’s Association and the Western Growers Association.

Mr. Harris has made a personal commitment to California State University, Fresno that includes serving on the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute Board of Directors. His philanthropic support has touched many areas across Fresno State, including the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Craig School of Business, Bulldog Foundation, Henry Madden Library, Kremen School of Education and Human Development, and the President’s Circle of Excellence.

Mr. Harris is widely considered to be one of the most influential farmers in the region. In recognition of his more than 50 years of professional contributions to agribusiness and horse racing, for his mentorship and friendship to the university and in recognition of his outstanding volunteerism and philanthropy, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Fresno are proud to confer upon Mr. John Harris the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.