Communication professor led by example

Courtesy Ivette Yee


Stanley Harrison, a public relations professor at UM’s School of Communication, passed away in his home Thursday.

Harrison, 81, taught public relations writing and the history of journalism for 34 years. Harrison suffered a stroke in November.

“Stan Harrison was a special colleague who, from personal and professional experience, taught generations of students how to write effectively and succeed in the public relations arena,” said Robert Hosmon, vice dean of the School of Communication and director of the public relations program. “He will most assuredly be missed.”

Harrison began his career in 1946, working as a journalist with the Baltimore Sun.

Throughout his career, Harrison also wrote for the National Journal, and worked as a public relations strategist and a congressional speech writer. He also authored six books.

Harrison earned his doctorate from American University. He taught at American, as well as at the University of Maryland, before joining the University of Miami’s faculty in 1986.

“It is rare to find an individual who truly can achieve a goal most of us express, of being true to oneself to the very end,” said colleague Thomas Steinfatt, a professor of communication studies. “It was refreshing to be with him because he was so unique, refusing to copy or kowtow to the beliefs of others.”

Harrison was an expert on H. L.  Mencken – an American writer, satirist and critic in the early 20th century. Harrison became a leading collector, analyzer and interpreter of Mencken’s work. He was also the editor of the “Menckeniana,” the quarterly journal about the life and works of Mencken.

Distraction magazine Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Borge, now a junior, took Harrison’s public relations writing class during the fall of his sophomore year.

“He always had a cigar in his mouth and wore a gray suit. It was his signature look,” Borge said.

Borge also remembers that Harrison emphasized the importance of writing skills in general, even though the class was for students studying public relations. Harrison used “Elements of Style,” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White as part of his curriculum for the course and often gave students grammar quizzes.

“His grammar quizzes made me realize that you don’t always know as much grammar as you think you know,” Borge said. “I remember him specifically telling us that as a student in college, he actually went to work for the Associated Press as a reporter. That actually inspired me, and it shows that if you really work hard you could go far. He proved to us that he was really successful because he was a great writer.”

According to professor Steinfatt, Harrison upheld a forthright nature in the classroom. He would never let an error slide or tolerate anything but the best from his students.

“Harrison was one of the few professors that I’ve had at UM who emphasized writing and also emphasized how knowing and mastering the fundamentals can take you wherever you want,” Borge said.

Students respected him for his directness and honesty, which in turn helped sharpen their skills.

“His strong sense of humor and insight into the motives of others were just a few of the reasons that I both liked and respected him greatly, and spoke with him often,” Steinfatt said.

A memorial service for students, colleagues and friends of Harrison will be held on campus at the end of the semester. It will be announced at a later date.