English history, his love of humor, especially of Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, and the Marx brothers, and his penchant for quoting Shakespeare, he was a delightful companion and had a wide range of friendships. His wisdom and his ability to judge human character were reflected in his impact on the affairs of the university as a mentor and as an advisor. His own earthy humor and often repeated stories are part of the lore of the School of Chemical Sciences.
On the occasion of a symposium honoring Harry Drickamer on March 15, 2004, his colleagues at the University of Illinois had this to say:
Complementing his greatness as a scientist, Drickamer’s persona was noteworthy. He was fiercely dedicated to his scholarship and outspokenly suspicious of all things that might distract his students and colleagues from research. He had little patience for mere competence but an abiding admiration for the experiment well done and concisely described. His colleagues and students remain grateful for the years that he shared with us, years filled with great science, colorful anecdotes, and clear excellence.
Harry met Mae Elizabeth McFillen, a nursing student, while he was at the University of Michigan, and they were married in New Orleans on October 28, 1942. Mae Elizabeth, the first family-planning nurse practitioner in East Central Illinois, worked for many years at Planned Parenthood. The couple had two sons and three daughters. The oldest son, Lee, recently retired from the chairmanship of the Department of Biology at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff. Kurt is a professor of biochemistry at The Imperial College in England. Lynn works in the Law Library at the University of Michigan and is active in training groups about tolerance and acceptance of gays. Margaret is an M.D. and associate professor of medicine (geriatrics) at the Yale University School of Medicine. Priscilla is a reference librarian and poet at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.