A West Virginia University graduate who went from being a cell biologist to a successful entrepreneur will deliver WVU s December Convocation address at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Coliseum.

Thomas L. Harrison is the chairman and chief executive officer of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group, the worlds largest advertising and marketing services organization.

While at the helm, he helped the division triple in size. DAS boasts 5,000 clients worldwide and $4 billion in annual revenues.

Harrison has an advanced degree in cell biology and physiology from WVU . He began his business career at Pfizer Laboratories, where he worked his way up from being a sales representative to the marketing director.

He then joined a health care advertising firm for six years before starting Harrison&Star Business Group in 1987a firm that has been recognized as one of the most successful and rapidly growing agencies in the health care industry.

Harrison served as the chairman of both HSBG and Diversified Healthcare Communications, a group of eight health care agencies within Omnicom, until his appointment as president of DAS in 1997. A year later, he became chairman and CEO .

Besides being a leader in global marketing communications, Harrison is also dedicated to community service. Hes served on numerous boards including The Childrens Hospital at Montefiore, the New York Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and several marketing services companies.

In addition, he is a member of the New York University Campaign Steering Committee, chairman of the Deans Council at The Steinhardt School of Education at NYU and the presidents council at the Tulane University School of Medicine. He also is a former member of the deans council at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Harrison served as president of a local Westchester County School Board and was the chairman and founder of the nonprofit education foundation in that Westchester School District.

Additionally, he has co-chaired the New York chapter of the U.S. Olympic Committee and helped raise substantial funding to support Olympic athletes.

In recognition of his efforts, he has been honored by Long Island College Hospital, The Childrens Hospital at Montefiore and The Lymphoma Foundation.

Harrisons WVU ties date back to graduate school when he was awarded a WVU Foundation Fellowship. He worked in the Department of Biology and later at the WVU Medical Center focusing on cancer research.

I chose WVU because of its academic and cultural reputation,he said.My favorite memories include the inclusiveness of my instructors, the school academic and sport spirit, the friendliness of the Morgantown community to the college students, my relationship with my adviser (now retired Richard P. Sutter) and the way I was taught to think by my instructors.

Harrison said his WVU days had a profound impact on him.

WVU has taught me to think creatively, strategically and in an integrated fashion, using learnings from one area to build on the learnings in another curriculum,he said.It was at WVU that a major life punctuation point happened that moved my career from one of academia to the business world.

While attending the University, Harrison met his wife, Pam Gibney, a 1974 graduate in WVU s business administration program. They have three children.

Since graduating from WVU , Harrison has returned to his alma mater on a number of occasions, most recently to speak as part of a lecture series on mass media business leaders in 2001.

Asked what advice he would offer WVU graduates, he said students should seek what makes them most happy in life, then pursue it fully.

I am a trained scientist now in the business world of entrepreneurialism,he said.Careers are often nonlinear as mine has been. Always do what makes you most happy and fulfilled in life.

Student and Guest Information

Each year, about 1,000 WVU seniors graduate in December. While not a formal commencement, convocation honors those students who complete their degree requirements in mid-year. Degrees are conferred during May commencement.

Coliseum gates open for students and their guests at noon Dec. 12. Graduates will wear traditional caps and gowns, and studentsnames will be read aloud.

Although the number of guests will not be limited and tickets are not required, reservations are needed to formulate a list of graduates who plan to attend.

To R.S.V.P., submit the following information to http://dcrsvp.scripts.wvu.edu/: first name, last name, middle name or initial (optional), phone number, degree/school or college and number of expected guests. If students prefer, they may call 304-293-7132 or 304-293-8021.

Anyone requesting special needs seating or parking should call the Office of Disability Services at 304-293-6700.

For further information regarding:

  • Individual school or college event detailsContact the deans office of the respective school or college.
  • Ordering caps and gowns, announcements and invitationsCall the WVU Bookstore at 304-293-7467.
  • Diplomas or to update mailing addressesContact the Office of Admissions and Records at 304-293-2124 ext.1532.

For other information, contact Eloise M. Tomei, University coordinator of events, at , or call the Office of Institutional Advancement at 304-293-7132 or 304-293-8021. On the Net:http://www.wvu.edu/dec_convocation/.