Harrison, '03, Never Really Left UW Tacoma After Graduating

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John Harrison recipient of the 2013 UW Tacoma Distinguished Alumni Award, has invested at least as much time into UW Tacoma as he did in playing the trombone when he was a child.

Sometimes it seems John Harrison spends all his time in one of four places: at his desk managing the business affairs of a local car emporium, on the soccer pitch, on the ski slopes, or at UW Tacoma. For his service on the Milgard School Advisory Board, the Alumni Council, the UW Alumni Association and in countless other UW venues, Harrison earned the 2013 UW Tacoma Distinguished Alumni Award.

He got his UW Tacoma degree from the Milgard School before it was the Milgard School. He was a member of the first MBA graduating class in 2003. That June was when the school was named upon receipt of the generous gift of the Milgard family. When the school created an advisory council, John was asked to serve and has been a member ever since.

In 2006, the UW Alumni Association restructured its board, and created for the first time positions for “university representative” trustees from UW Tacoma and UW Bothell. John was recruited for the Tacoma position and has been a member ever since.

He has worked countless events on behalf of UW Tacoma and the UW Alumni Association: Coaches Tour golf tournaments, Huskies Celebrating Huskies banquets, Paint the Park Purple with the Tacoma Rainiers, the list is endless. On one memorable occasion, he was handing out bagels and coffee to students on the UW Tacoma campus on the first day of classes when a fire alarm went off. He evacuated the area, along with everyone else, and when he returned to his station after the all-clear, there was not a single bagel left!

John’s service to UW has recently expanded into legislative advocacy. He is a founding member of Sound Sound District Dawgs, a group operating under the umbrella of the UW Alumni Association’s UW Impact advocacy program, that connects engaged citizens with state legislators on higher education issues.

John’s path to a college degree demonstrates the unexpected ways in which connections can be made. He started his undergraduate degree at UW Seattle in engineering—which he enjoyed. But he took an accounting class, as a way of fulfilling a general education requirement. He discovered that he loved accounting. He completed his degree in accounting at Western Washington University, where he met his wife. Later, when he wanted an MBA, he chose UW Tacoma because he was attracted to the focus on change management in the curriculum.

John is Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at Bruce Titus Automotive Group, one of the largest car dealers in the South Sound. He’s an avid skier: he put one of his daughters on the slopes for her first time when she was 2! He played trombone all through primary and secondary school; he was in marching band and jazz band. Surely his ability to get along with all sorts of people comes partly from his experiences playing as part of an ensemble.

As John puts it, he has two MBAs. The first one is his “MBA in life,” and the second one is the degree he got from UW Tacoma. We are thankful for all he has done for this urban-serving university, and we congratulate him on being recognized as an alumnus of distinction.

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June 18, 2013
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