Vietnam War Veteran and former Boston Public School principal speaks at WHS


Nate Hohenberg

Speaker Roger Harris talks about his life.

Nate Hohenberg and Mike Curley

On Friday, May 17, a group of juniors and sophomores listened to Vietnam War Veteran and former Boston Public School teacher Roger Harris give his life story, from serving in the Vietnam war as a Marine to becoming the superintendent at the Renaissance School in Boston.

History department head Kerry Dunne used connections she made in the past to get in touch with Harris.

“I did a project with my contemporary world issues students in the fall where we interviewed 21 veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan,” Dunne said.

After the project, Dunne shared interviews over social media. Cheryl Watson-Harris, a former colleague of Dunne, found the students’ work and reached out to Dunne, explaining that her husband is a Vietnam Veteran and delivers speeches at schools. This connection eventually led to Dunne bringing Harris to the school.

“He was a Marine, he listed in the Marines. The Marines spent 13 months in Vietnam, the regular army guys spent 12… But the part about him that I didn’t know as much about is that he became a teacher,” History teacher Sean Smith said on Harris’ speech. “The original focus was on Vietnam, but he had a lot to talk about, being a teacher, an administrator, and the busing crisis.”

After Harris gave his speech, History teacher Robin Wanosky outlined what she hoped that the students took away from it.

“They got to meet real life history. Often times we talk about history and it happened in the past, and here’s someone who obviously experienced past events, but he can still talk about it. I hope they were able to appreciate a real life primary source,” Wanosky said.

One student who listened to Harris’s speech was junior Evan Mcdonald, who found Harris’s story interesting because it talked about more than just the Vietnam War.

“It was interesting seeing not only his time in Vietnam, because as many of us know from prior speakers and different videos and stuff that it was an awful experience, but also his experience before and after Vietnam,” McDonald said.

Students were able to learn more about a conflict from a real life primary source through Harris’ speech.