Dr. Harlan London

January 04, 2023

Dr. Harlan London, long-time professor of Child and Family Studies at Syracuse University, passed from this life to eternity…

Born February 5, 1929 and reared on the London Family owned farm “in the Delta of Arkansas.” Harlan was one of six boys and two girls born to Robert London, Sr., and Marie Scruggs London, who walked one mile to and from the elementary school in the Morgan Settlement community of Arkansas. In the one room elementary school, teachers inspired and encouraged hard work from students. No provisions were made in this community for “colored boys and girls” to attend high school. He was one of many boys and girls whose parents sent them to a private boarding high school in Fargo, Arkansas.  During his high school days, Harlan was an active member of the choir, where his singing led to a music scholarship to attend Philander Smith College (HBCU) in Little Rock, Arkansas. He sang with an internationally renowned PSC choir and with a “special group of singers.” His singing in this group attracted much attention.

Before moving to Syracuse in 1961, Harlan had earned an undergraduate degree in social science at Philander Smith College, a Bachelor of Divinity at Gammon Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, and a Master’s in Counseling at Boston University. His Doctor of Philosophy degree in social science was earned at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. As Harlan completed his Ph.D., he was assigned to teach in Syracuse University’s International Program Abroad for a year in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He returned to Syracuse University‘s campus afterwards and continued his academic work. Harlan taught at all levels from freshman to advanced graduate studies, directed Ph.D. dissertations and participated in the completion of many.

Harlan was a skilled researcher and a respected scholar who loved teaching undergraduate students above all other work in the academy.  His research and publications focused on urbanization, family structure, social class, ethnicity and education. He maintained affiliation and leadership in national organizations of family studies over a span of his career. Harlan was a teaching faculty member for 24 years and a chairperson of the Department of Child and Family Studies in the College of Human Development.  He retired as advisor to the Vice Chancellor and Provost of Academic Affairs for diversity in the curriculum at Syracuse University. He taught and served numerous academic leadership positions until his retirement in 2006. 

Harlan was an extraordinary person who was not defined by his remarkable academic career. He met a native Arkansan, Arcenia Phillips, during his high school days and they later married. This was his only marriage. They were married over 54 years until Arcenia’s death in 2011. Harlan and Arcenia were the proud parents of Doran, David, and Judy. Arcenia earned her Ph.D. in Education at Syracuse University. She worked as curriculum and educational specialist in the Syracuse Public Schools, teaching teachers how to teach with emphasis on diversity. Harlan and Arcenia often did joint lectures and held different views to give students varied perspectives on an issue. They were devoted scholars who were also available parents and listened to their children. 

Like his Dad, Harlan stressed the importance of education and hard work to his children and grandchildren. He often said those are keys that open doors of opportunity and success to adult life. He had a strong faith and his family were members of Rockefeller United Methodist Church for over 50 years. Music was Harlan’s great love - sacred, classical, jazz and spirituals. He returned to singing Negro spirituals after retirement and was a frequent soloist at many churches across the Syracuse community until his death. 

Harlan was a loving dad, a family historian, a gourmet cook, a skillful gardener, a landscape artist, and a loyal friend. He was devoted to his doberman pinschers. Harlan is loved and remembered by the thousands of students whose lives he touched. He was a leader in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity’s mentoring program for high school male students as they transition to college. Harlan will be remembered for his sensitivity and caring, great sense of humor, his wisdom and intelligence. His family will remember him for the love and integrity he brought to every situation. He will be sorely missed. 

Harlan is preceded in death by his parents Robert Sr. and Marie, his wife, Arcenia, brothers, Ernest, Marian, Robert Jr., Marvin, sister, Rosemary, and son, Doran. He leaves to cherish his life and memories, his children, Judy London (Harold) Palmer of Corpus Christi, Texas, and David Harlan London of Baltimore, Maryland. His grandchildren, David Palmer of Sacramento, California and Jaren Palmer of Corpus Christi, Texas, his siblings, Dorothy London Ross of Milwaukee, Wisconsin/Las Vegas, Nevada, and Mel London of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and also sister-in-law, Mattie Phillips London of Dewitt, Arkansas.  Harlan has a host of loving nieces, nephews, relatives and friends to share pleasant memories of him.

In lieu of flowers, a contribution may be sent in memory of Dr. Harlan London to:

Philander Smith College - scholarship fund Institutional Advancement - (501)370-5392 900 West Daisy Bates Drive  Little Rock, AR 72202