Robert Wayne Harsha passed away on the morning of Aug. 16, 2016, after a 10-month battle with prostate cancer complicated by pulmonary fibrosis. Wayne was surrounded by his family and loved ones as he transitioned from earth to his heavenly home.
Wayne was born on Aug. 19, 1944, in Billings, Mont., to Bob and Marguerite Harsha. His childhood days were spent cutting hay, tending pigs, and milking cows on the family ranch on Shane Creek Road which instilled in Wayne a strong work ethic that would carry him far beyond his hometown of Columbus, Montana.
After graduating from Columbus High School in 1962, Wayne started college at Montana State University. While at MSU, Wayne became involved in United Campus Christian Fellowship.
During a 1964 UCCF State Conference in Helena, Mont., Wayne met Heidi Clark, a lively city-girl from the University of Montana. Wayne soon discovered that in addition to their Christian faith, he and Heidi shared a vision for the future that included building a family through adoption.
Deciding that true love was more important than school loyalty, Wayne transferred to the University of Montana. He and Heidi were married on June 12, 1966. While at Missoula, Wayne initially studied engineering, but realizing he wanted to work closely with people, he later changed his major to social work. He graduated from the University of Montana in 1968 with his bachelor of arts.
Wayne’s desire to serve and dream of flying led him to join the Air Force in 1968. His first assignment was Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he completed pilot training and then became a flight instructor.
Over his 24 years in the military, Wayne was stationed at nine bases around the world, including assignments in Illinois, Arizona, California, Texas, Japan and Germany. He completed over 5,000 flying hours on four different types of planes and was recognized as a responsible project manager and dedicated instructor. Wayne advanced to the rank of Lt. Colonel before his retirement in 1991.
While in the Air Force, Wayne continued to be a true academic. Driven by his love of learning, he pursued coursework in the field of education. In 1974, he earned his Masters in Education from Southwest Texas State University and in 1979 he completed his Doctorate in Education at Montana State University. In 1988, Wayne began teaching at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and following his military retirement, he started his career as an assistant professor and full-time Regional Faculty Advisor.
From 1992 to 2011, Wayne served as the program chair and director of marketing for the Master of Science in Technical Management Program. From 2012 to 2013, he was the program chair for the Master of Science in Management Program and from 2014 to 2015 Wayne was the department chair of the Department of Leadership.
Wayne was a gifted educator with a talent for curricular development and a heart for his students. During his 27 year career at Embry-Riddle, Wayne taught nearly 4,600 students at 38 different corporate and military facilities in 11 states and two foreign countries. He retired in May 2015 as an Associate Professor in the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide.
Despite his accolades in the military and academia, Wayne believed his life’s calling was to make a difference in the world through his family. In addition to raising their biological son, Wayne and Heidi adopted three biracial children at a time when transracial adoption was uncommon and sometimes criticized.
Whether overseas or stateside, the Harshas volunteered in their community and opened their home to anyone in need. In 1986, while stationed at Zweibrücken AFB in Germany, the Harsha family was recognized as the U.S. Air Force Europe’s Family of the Year.
Wayne’s devotion to his work, family and the lives of others stemmed from his strong Christian faith. He was always involved in his local church, teaching Sunday school, narrating cantatas, and serving on administrative committees. Christ was the center of everything Wayne did, guiding his decisions and directing his steps.
Wayne was a living example of Christ’s service and love, touching lives and making a difference around the world, all for the glory of God.
Wayne is preceded in death by his mother Marguerite. His memory will continue to be cherished by his father, Bob, wife, Heidi, his brothers, Phil (Derinda) and Harry (Jeanne), his five children, Rob (Traci), Tom, Nita, Akiko (Masa) Shimura, Maria (Timilehin) Wusu, his five grandchildren, Hannah, Ben, Yui, Arielle, and Kaiori, and the many nieces and nephews whom he loved deeply.
A celebration of Wayne’s life will take place at Columbus Evangelical Church on Thursday, Aug. 25, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Wayne’s memory to the Helps Fund at Columbus Evangelical Church (2 E. 1st Street, Columbus 59019), the Stillwater Youth Center (PO Box 1148, Columbus 59019), or Special K Ranch (PO Box 479, Columbus 59019).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”