- Public Relations
Dear Fellow Page Members,
I have some very sad news to share with you today. Our dear friend and Page member, Bruce Harrison, passed away on Saturday. He was 88.
Bruce was one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I ever knew, and he was a huge influence in my life. His dedication to Page and to the Page Principles was unmatched. In fact, Bruce was our first executive director, a part-time role that he took on while still heading his counseling firm in 1997. Page Chairman Bill Nielsen asked him to establish our first office. I told Bruce many times that the work I’m doing now at Page is built on the foundation that he so expertly laid.
I could always count on Bruce for an encouraging word. He was so incredibly generous with advice and counsel. In my last message from him, in August, he wrote, “Page is providing (as was intended) a place where corporate communicators talk through and deal with shaken corporate contexts. Keep up the work. I'm proud of us. I'm proud of our faith in communication that understands, lifts, leads, and makes truth reliable.”
He was a progressive thinker, always looking for new and better. In fact, Bruce was the first to stand up at a Page meeting to advise that we drop the Arthur W. Page Society name and become just Page as we point to a more dynamic future. It took us a few years, but we ultimately followed his good advice.
Bruce was married to Patricia Harrison, the longest-serving president and chief executive officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Pat asked me to share the following statement:
A beautiful life has just ended. My husband of 47 years, Emmett Bruce Harrison, died peacefully surrounded by family—even in this time of COVID—on January 16, 2021. Bruce was a true thought leader, a former journalist, chief executive officer, entrepreneur and author. But mostly he was a kind and compassionate person, a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. We shared a wonderful and dynamic life. There will be a service online and a memorial service when we can all safely gather.
Here are some tributes from fellow Page members.
From Ann Barkelew, formerly of Fleishman Hillard: Bruce was the personification of a true gentleman. He could, in his gentle ways, bring even heated discussions to everyone in agreement. He lifted our thinking to the best levels. He was definitely one of the top 10 Page members I always wanted to see and visit with.
From Maril MacDonald of Gagen MacDonald: Bruce was one of the first people I met in Page, and he took me under his wing. Bruce literally wrote the books on environmental communications, having pioneered that space with his wife, Pat, who went on to be assistant secretary of state under Colin Powell and co-chair of the Republican National Committee before joining CPB. I raise this here to highlight that Bruce was an early pioneer of equality for women – a philosophy greatly bolstered by the strong one he married and whose career he encouraged for 47 years.
I had the good fortune to hire Bruce as a consultant when I was CCO of Navistar. It soon became clear that his vast knowledge in the environmental space (and Public Affairs in general) grossly outpaced mine. Therefore, I focused his strong intellect, uncanny stakeholder insights and masterful navigation skills to pull together our engineers, marketers, government affairs team and lawyers to develop what ultimately became the first Green Diesel TechnologyTM. That truly changed the trajectory of the truck manufacturing industry and Bruce continued to work with the company on many other “firsts” long after I left. Bruce always gave me the credit but everyone in the company (including me) gave it to Bruce.
I will greatly miss my dear Bruce and will do my best to carry forward all that he modeled. He was a brilliant public relations counselor, to be sure. But even more, he was a gifted life coach and exemplar of how to be a great spouse, parent, mentor and friend.
From Tom Martin of College of Charleston: When I was considering leaving the corporate world to teach, one of the many who inspired me to do so was Bruce Harrison. Bruce was one of those special rare people who was always fascinated in whatever you had to say. And he wasn’t faking it. He really meant it when he asked you what you were up to. You could tell he was really listening because he asked meaningful questions about whatever it was you had shared. His unstoppable curiosity and zeal for new trends set him apart, among those both younger and older. I remember when at a Page meeting he told me he had just had a birthday. I figured he was in his late 70’s and asked him which birthday it was. “I just turned 85,” he said with a smile. Here he was, still teaching, still mentoring, still plugged in. I was impressed. But for him, it was on to the next question.
From Jim Murphy of Murphy & Co.: Bruce was a real leader in our field, with numerous remarkable achievements, almost too numerous to list. What perhaps stands out most is that he is truly a really nice person, always warm and supportive. He will be missed.
From Bill Nielsen, formerly of Johnson & Johnson: Bruce Harrison was one of the most unsung stalwarts of our profession. He was loyal, dedicated, reliable and hardworking. I hired Bruce as the first executive director of Page when I was chair in 1997. It was Bruce who gave us the visionary and inspirational language to describe Page and its essential position in our profession. We recognized him in 2009 with the Distinguished Service Award. He was very deserving of that honor and he will be greatly missed.
Bruce worked as a journalist and a congressional press secretary before becoming a vice president in public and government relations for Freeport Minerals Company (now Freeport McMoran). In 1973, he established his Washington-based consultancy, E. Bruce Harrison Company, specializing in environmental, health and safety communication.
More recently, Bruce was an adjunct professor in graduate public relations studies at Georgetown University. He is the author of three books on environmental communications, and, with Page member Judith Muhlberg, the co-author of How Leaders Communicate, How Communicators Lead, a textbook now used in university graduate enterprise communication studies. I was honored to guest lecture for Bruce and Judith on a number of occasions.
Bruce received the Page Distinguished Service Award in 2009. His many other honors include being named in 2000 by PR Week one of the “100 Most Influential Public Relations Professionals of the 20th Century.” He is in the Washington, D.C., PRSA Chapter Hall of Fame. Also, the 2001 Betsy Plank Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Alabama College of Communication; the Society of Professional Journalists Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award for the initiation of Project Watchdog on press freedom; an AP Radio award for news writing; a National Humanities Endowment Award for playwriting; and a Global Award for Environmental Communications from the International Public Relations Association.
Pat Harrison has requested that, if you wish to honor Bruce, in lieu of flowers donations in his memory can be sent to the Saint Pio Foundation or the First Amendment Forever Fund or a charity of your choice.
Saint Pio Foundation, 270 North Avenue, Suite 808, New Rochelle, NY 10801 www.saintpiofoundation.org
First Amendment Forever Fund: Society of Professional Journalists, 3909 N. Meridian St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46208 https://www.spj.org/hq.asp
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