Alumni award for longtime dentistry leader
With his wife, children and grandchildren in tow and official congressional recognition by U.S. Representative Dr. Brian Babin of Texas’ 36th Congressional District, the Aug. 12 alumni homecoming reception was especially memorable for Dr. Tommy Harrison ’79 of Katy, Texas.
Babin presented Harrison a certificate of congressional recognition on behalf of his district’s constituents, characterizing this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award as the “hardest working dentist I’ve ever seen in our profession.” Babin even credited Harrison’s efforts beyond the scope of dentistry. “The fact I’m even serving has a lot to do with his help,” Babin said.
Harrison has been active in organized dentistry for decades, but his leadership in the profession began as far back as dental school, when he was elected class president each year. Harrison noted that his marriage originated during those same years.
“Mary Sue and I had our first date the day before I started dental school, and we got married when I had one year left,” Harrison said in his acceptance remarks. “The nicest wedding present I gave to Mary Sue was when I graduated.”
Harrison recently hosted his 30th dental student for a week as part of the preceptor program at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. He spent years in leadership roles on the Alumni Association board of directors and the college’s Century Club. As president of the Alumni Association when the Texas A&M Health Science Center was formed in 1999, he actively advised discussions between health science center and College of Dentistry leadership.
Alongside his praise for the “top-notch education based not just on clinical expertise but ethics and professionalism,” at his alma mater, Harrison is taking the recent college name changes in stride.
“I am so proud to be a ‘Baylor’ grad, now part of Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Although our name is changing, we’re not losing our history. You can’t lose that. Your history is always a part of you,” he said.
In addition to the College of Dentistry, Harrison’s lengthy leadership roster in professional organizations includes service as president of the Texas Dental Association, Greater Houston Dental Society and the Texas section of the International College of Dentists in addition to multiple roles within the American Dental Association.
“Dr. Tommy Harrison puts forth maximum effort with each organization, with a tireless commitment to educate students and dentists alike throughout the state of Texas and the United States,” said Dr. Mark Gannaway, associate professor in restorative sciences, who nominated Harrison for the Distinguished Alumnus Award. “Tommy is a real pearl in our profession.”