Alumnus of the Month: July 2010
Robert Harrison ’75
What is your edge (strength)?
For me, the word tenacity comes into play here. I think you should take your Hofstra experience and march to the drummer inside of you. When I photographed every place of worship in Nassau County, it took me 18 months to locate, photograph, and complete this project. The resulting 1,500 photographs can be seen on the Long Island Libraries Resource Center Web site under Hofstra University.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
As an evening student, I observed that the quality of the teachers was of a caliber of the first order and deserved emulating.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What was your major?
What was your favorite class?
My advanced degree offered courses in television, radio, and education communications; each one was an integral component of the degree program.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
Being honored with the George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award, and being part of several Hofstra Long Island Studies Institute and Hofstra University Museum exhibits.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My Hofstra degree in communications was a major factor in becoming manager of the Command Center for the MTA Long Island Bus. Presently I photograph events for a local newspaper and work in the archives of Nassau County.
Who in your field do you most admire?
Due to the fact that I touch bases with a number of fields of endeavor, I offer the Hofstra “magnificent seven” – Geri E. Solomon, for her dedication; Gayl Teller, for her poetry; Joan Natalie, for her spirit; Bob Spiotto, for his theater arts; John J. Budnick, for his counsel; Beth Goldberg, for her art; and the late Ken Bagatelle, for advancing the rights of individuals who are physically challenged.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After graduation, I was in charge of transportation communications for more than 400 vehicles at the MTA. I was able to rely on the discipline and technical training experience that I received while at Hofstra.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Don’t blame others for your shortcomings, and remember to give thanks to those who have helped you along the way. Try to keep connected with your fellow Hofstra classmates after graduating; networking will benefit your future. Be humble, be honest, and be fair.
How do you balance work and life?
I am in many fields of endeavor, so I can pick up one project such as photography, or writing an article or poem, or doing research when time allows. I focus easily on one venue at a time.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself having published my 3,000th photograph (I am up to 2,500 now); seeing three more of my plays produced, in addition to the three that have already been performed; enjoying my 1,000th poem in print (now closing in on 500); being published in 50 anthologies or books (with my current total at 33); and lastly, celebrating Hofstra University’s 85th anniversary.
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
In photography, being awarded the Folio Award, and, in poetry, listening to actor Ed Asner read one of my poems in the audio book Grow Old Along With Me, which later became part of a Grammy nomination.
Do you have a favorite quote or saying that has kept you motivated through the years?
I believe that an inspiring quote can carry you through the day. I came across this particular one in a graveyard in Springs:
“Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity; without them there would be little worth saving.”
– Jimmy Ernst
After graduating with a Diploma of Advanced Studies (D.A.S.), Robert Harrison ’75 became a successful communications manager, published poet, cartoonist, newspaper and documentation photographer, children’s book writer, historian, play writer, baseball history re-enactor, docent, and staff writer for two magazines, as well as a sought-after guest speaker on radio and television and at various events.
Before that, he already had been a U.S. Air Force photographer, a parking lot attendant, a hot walker, a bouncer, a special education teacher and a transportation dispatcher.
Along the way, Robert has garnered a few awards for his efforts, including a group Grammy nomination, two Nassau County Re-Grant awards, 55 juried photography citations, a Pall Corporation Award for artistic achievement, a lifetime pass to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and letters of appreciation from the Town of Hempstead, the African-American Museum and the Office of the Nassau County Executive.
Robert has had a longstanding relationship with Hofstra University. In the 1990s, he started a continuous photo exhibit in the Hofstra University School of Law atrium that lasted for 10 years. In 1995 he was invited to be on Hofstra’s Babe Ruth Conference Committee. This was followed by reading his poetry at the Moby-Dick Conference, and presenting his own paper at the Millennial Shakespeare Conference in 1999. At the Frank Sinatra Conference, Robert was selected to read the last poem on Sinatra in the poetry section. Robert has donated photographs to the Hofstra University School of Law and the Hofstra Bird Sanctuary Web sites. When Robert completed an 18-month odyssey of photographing every place of worship in Nassau County, it was Hofstra’s Long Island Studies Institute that acquired this collection, which was on display at the Axinn Library in 2004. A year later, Robert supplied photographs once again for the Hofstra University Museum’s From the Market to the Mall exhibit.
In fall 2005 Robert was asked by Hofstra’s Assistant Dean for Special Collections Geri E. Solomon to photograph every September 11 memorial site in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. This photo ensemble was presented at the Hofstra University Museum as part of its Voiceless in the Presence of Realities in 2006. This has been an ongoing project for Robert and, so far, 161 sites have been located and photographed, and the images have been secured by Hofstra’s Long Island Studies Institute.
Robert has also written a play titled Confessions of a Shakespeare Addict, in which Hofstra alumnus and Hofstra Entertainment Executive Producer Bob Spiotto has played the role of Henry Clay Folger on a recurring basis since 2008. One of Robert’s fondest memories of Hofstra University was when he was awarded the Hofstra George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award. After receiving this esteemed honor, Robert became president-elect, and then president, of this longtime Hofstra alumni group. In 2010 Robert had photographs accepted by the Huntington Arts Council and the Long Island Arts Council in Freeport, and his photo-tiles exhibit will be on display at the East Meadow, Wantagh, Jericho and Merrick public libraries.