The DP Development team sat down with DP alum Bryan Harris ’83, to discuss his increased giving in 2021. Bryan gave over $40,000 to the DP and has just pledged another $50,000 towards the DP’s Campaign for a New Home.
What ways are you involved in the Penn alumni community?
Bryan: I’ve always been very active with Penn and continue to be. I always stayed close to the university, whether it was going back to campus to visit friends, or attending a football game or basketball game, or contributing to the DP in small ways, you know, maybe just writing a check, if you will.
But it’s really been in the last decade where I approached my connection to Penn with a greater sense of purpose. I’ve done it on various levels. One is providing volunteer counsel for the Department of Athletics. I was the Sports Editor of the DP. Sports is a passion of mine. It’s been a considerable part of my professional life. I’m a passionate sports fan. The opportunity to provide counsel to the Department of Athletics has been a wonderful experience. I also provide financial support for the Penn Museum as well as some counsel for their marketing department. But you know, what one of my focuses and passions with the Penn Museum is supporting their conservation group. It can take months, if not years, to prepare priceless artifacts to be exhibited to the public. It’s painstaking work. So I’ve been able to make contributions that help with their professional development, that help with new equipment and techniques that they use to restore artifacts.
How did your involvement at the DP as a student shape your experience and help you grow?
Bryan: I led a department of over twenty sports writers putting out a page or page and a half, five days a week. I did it on my own. The paper always had two sports editors, you know, you work as a team. Well, I was the only one really who was able to make that commitment that year. So I went at it on my own, which was very challenging. But I had a great staff. I learned a lot and I gained a ton of confidence.
The experience I had at the DP, the confidence I gained in developing organizational skills, the ability to prioritize and delegate responsibility and lead people, having to edit stories and literally do layouts by hand. I learned so many skills at the DP, but most important was the confidence, the ability to lead and manage people. So, it was a tremendous experience. When you’re that young, it’s really a life forming experience more than anything. It really was. It always stayed with me.
What encouraged you to increase your financial support of the DP?
Bryan: I started thinking more about what I could do for the DP. The Development team reached out to me. We spoke and they listened to what’s really important to me and how I can help support the DP and the needs of today’s students. We worked together to figure out the right fit.
I spoke to Beatrice Forman and Hadriana Lowenkron 34th Street and DP editors and learned that they were both some of the first women of color in those positions, it really surprised me. It really did. But at the same time, I think it’s wonderful that there’s been a breakthrough. Because when you breakthrough, there’s no going back. It just changes the mindset, the approach and the philosophy of what is important to the organization and I think that helps to guide us even more. Having a better understanding of where the DP was and where we are now and where we need to be.
It was wonderful to see their energy, their spirit and their passion. Not just that passion and interest in the DP but it is a passion and interest in our community and the world at large. That’s really what it’s all about. It’s really about the people, the young people who are the DP, and just giving them the opportunity, the resources, the tools, the guidance, the encouragement, to do whatever they feel is possible, at the DP and within and across the Penn community and beyond.
Why was it important for you to support the DP’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and efforts?
Bryan: It’s really amazing, the quality of journalists who have come out of Penn. Penn doesn’t have a school of journalism. The DP really is, I think, the prime driver and resource of great journalists of Penn. But, what do I think was lacking when I was in school? The university as a whole was not as nearly as diverse as it is now. So you’ve got to start with that. The DP was probably even less diverse than the university population. We had, I believe, one person of color on the board. There were maybe a few other people of color on staff. I will say, it was not a priority then. We didn’t look at diversity as something critical to the organization.
It’s a different world now. I think we all understand that our world, our country, our communities are more diverse, they have to be more diverse, and we have to be more open to diversity. We have to be more reflective of the world we live in. There is a different mindset than it was when I was in school. I’m not making excuses, but I’m in a position now to help change that and help build upon something special that’s happening. We’re just getting started, I don’t want to write a check and then we’re good. So, what I’m looking to do here is help build a foundation that will be lasting.
What impact do you expect your gift to make?
Bryan: With my support and the support of many other people, I want the DP to continue to be known as one of the greatest, if not the number one, journalistic platforms in American colleges and universities. The DP really is a very powerful voice for the entire Penn community around the world. I want that voice to be loud, proud, confident, diverse and influential. Influential in its ability to advocate for all members of the Penn community and even serve in a recruitment role for young people and educate them about attending Penn and help them make their decision.
I also hope to encourage the creation of voices beyond the Penn community. There’s no reason that great student journalists can’t have a voice beyond the borders of their campus. But in order to do that, you have to have a very, very talented, diverse and purposeful group of young students. I think as long as there is a Daily Pennsylvanian, as long as there is a platform for student journalism at Penn, then the DP should be the leading student platform for journalism in the country, if not the world, and it should be one with a very proud, diverse, influential and purposeful voice.
Ultimately, I want to see the students benefit as people throughout their years at Penn and well beyond and hopefully leave an even stronger legacy at the DP.
What makes DP alumni support so critical?
Bryan: I think it’s very important. It’s really one of the life bloods of the DP. I consider the DP a family within the entire Penn alumni community and that’s a massive community. However, there are people who are so passionate about other people, like myself, who have these connections, and these passion points, and there are many other people like me, who were at the DP during a very formative time in their life, personally and professionally. You know, I’m proof positive, Steven and his team connected with me and touched the passion point, and we figured out a way to convert my passion to support.
So, I think it’s critical, it’s more personal when you’re dealing with an organization that’s tied to your alma mater and for people who had a great experience at their alma mater, which isn’t everybody, but there are enough people, enough people who are very proud of their education and will always stay true to their school. You have the ability to connect with them in a way that’s very personal. If you can unlock, their passion points and their connection points to Penn, you will find them willing and able to support the DP. It might mean in the way of writing a check, it might mean volunteering time, or just being available for a phone call or zoom call or in person meeting just to provide counseling guidance that’s extremely important, and can be more valuable than any financial contribution.
So, to answer your question, you know, to sum it up, I think it’s critical because I don’t think you’re going to find people who are more supportive, more passionate about the DP than this network of alumni.
About Bryan Harris
Bryan Harris is the COO & Managing Partner at Taylor. Bryan has spent almost 40 years in the marketing communications industry and has inspired a generation of professionals with his insight, strategic counsel and thought leadership. He joined Taylor in 1989 and has managed a wide variety of accounts for leading global brands such as Bristol-Myers, GSK, Gillette, MasterCard, Pitney Bowes, Fox Sports and Panini.