West Virginia University alumnus Thomas L. Harrison studied science as an undergrad but that didn’t limit his career choices. In fact, he used his advanced degree in cell biology and physiology to differentiate himself and establish his own niche in the health care communications industry.
Now, Harrison is chairman and chief executive officer of Diversified Agency Services, the world’s largest group of marketing services companies. A division of the Omnicom Group, DAS has more than 5,000 worldwide clients and annual revenues of almost $5 billion.
On Sunday, May 16, Harrison will address graduates as the keynote speaker during the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s 2010 May Commencement ceremony at WVU’s Creative Arts Center.
“Tom Harrison is an international leader and innovator in the field of integrated marketing communications,” said Maryanne Reed, dean of the School of Journalism. “He’s also an entrepreneur whose success story can inspire our graduates to create their own opportunities in an intensely competitive marketplace.”
DAS provides a broad range of marketing communications services including public relations, crisis management, branding, sales promotion, customer relationship management and specialty communications such as health care advertising for some of the largest global brands. It is the largest unit within Omnicom, itself the world’s largest advertising holding company.
Under Harrison’s watch, the DAS division has more than quadrupled in size and now accounts for almost 60 percent of Omnicom’s total revenues. He has acquired and heads a list of companies that are the most influential in their areas, particularly in public relations, relationship marketing, branding and healthcare communications. He has developed not only the largest and most relevant group of specialized agencies, but the most diverse as well.
Harrison’s multi-faceted career brought him to Omnicom in 1992 when the firm he co-founded, Harrison & Star Business Group, the most successful and rapidly growing agency in the healthcare industry at the time, was acquired. Harrison served as chairman of the Harrison & Star Group and chairman of Diversified Healthcare Communications, a group of eight healthcare agencies within Omnicom, until his appointment as president of DAS in 1997. He was named chairman and chief executive of DAS in 1998.
With an advanced degree in cell biology and physiology, Harrison began his business career at Pfizer Laboratories as a sales representative and left Pfizer as marketing director. He then joined a mid-sized healthcare advertising agency for six years before starting Harrison & Star.
While at the helm, he started a healthcare advertising agency, a medical education company, a direct-to-consumer healthcare company and a medical PR group as well as acquiring a managed care consultancy.
Harrison is a frequent speaker at business forums and at universities across the United States on the subject of entrepreneurialism, business strategies and the “Secrets to Success.” He has spoken at West Virginia University where he did his graduate research, was recognized with the 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award and received an honorary doctorate in 2007.
Harrison is the chair of P.I. Reed’s IMC Program Advisory Committee. He is also the sponsor of the Harrison/Omnicom Professorship in Advertising.
Harrison serves on a number of prestigious boards. He is a member of the executive committee of the Montefiore Hospital and is Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. He serves as a board member of the New York Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Harrison is board member for ePocrates, a healthcare information company; The Morgans Hotel Group; The Lymphoma Research Foundation; and several marketing services companies.
He was president of a local Westchester County School Board and chairman and founder of the not-for-profit education foundation in that Westchester School District. He has served as co-chairman of the New York Chapter of the U.S. Olympic Committee and raised substantial funding to support U.S. Olympic Athletes. He has been honored by Long Island College Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, The Lymphoma Research Foundation, New York City’s Health and Hospital Corporation and Mt. St. Vincent’s College.
Harrison is the author of the recently published book, INSTINCT Tapping Your Entrepreneurial DNA to Achieve Your Business Goals, published by Warner Business Books. Harrison has appeared on CNBC, CNNI, Bloomberg and Forbes.com to discuss INSTINCT. He can be found on the Enterprise Leadership podcast as well as Forbes, Bloomberg and other podcasts. Harrison also lectures at business schools and schools of entrepreneurialism on topics discussed in the book.
CONTACT: Kimberly Brown, School of Journalism
304-293-3505 ext. 5403
Follow @wvutoday on Twitter.