Education key to economic future of AZ luncheon told
Arizona Republic
Apr. 11, 2007

Charles Kelly

 The Dr. William Harris, head of Science Foundation Arizona, told those attending Sun Health's annual luncheon last week that Arizona must improve its education system and work closely with businesses to ensure its economy will be able to compete.

And the United States must do the same, Harris told the crowd in Memorial Hall of the Sun Health Support Services Building, 13180 N. 103rd Drive, Sun City.

Sun Health is a not-for-profit community-based health care network. "You've got to ask . . . what this country needs to be competitive, and I don't think we ask those questions enough," Harris said.

The non-profit Science Foundation Arizona is seeking to boost medical, scientific and engineering education and research in the state.

Harris said fostering education and research is vital for America to hold its own.

Unfortunately, he said, the country has lost the urgency and energy in those areas that stemmed from many veterans going to college on the GI Bill after World War II and the technology scare of having the Soviet Union launch the Sputnik space satellite in 1957.

The Sputnik launch, in particular, drove the United States to pour money into math and science education and research, Harris said.

But in recent years, he said, other countries such as China and Ireland have been more active in pushing such education and research.

"Other countries are changing the game," he said.

And foreign-born students are getting their doctorates here and returning to their home countries, rather than staying here to contribute to research and the economy.

"The 21st century will be driven very importantly by brains and speed,"
Harris said.