Jim Harrison ’80 remembers asking a tour guide in South Africa if she had many American tourists.
“She replied, ‘Heavens no!’ Harrison said. “‘I wish that I had more of them. Americans are always punctual.'”
Harrison says he’s always appreciated the compliment to American society and that he learned at PC that “the world is full of 8 o’clock classes with no cuts.”
“We are the on-time folks who are ready to help others, and Professor Norman Scarborough taught us how to utilize our time to be efficient,” Harrison said. “We learned it all at PC, but most of all we learned to appreciate and serve others.”
This year PC recognizes Harrison’s service to others by bestowing upon him a Dum Vivimus Servimus Award. The honor recognizes alumni who exemplify the meaning of the College motto, “While We Live, We Serve.”
After earning a degree in business administration, Harrison returned to his home state of Pennsylvania to join his family’s business. While they focused on nursing homes, they also had a supply company that eventually morphed into Harrison’s current role directing Mission Relief Services. The organization collects medical supplies and equipment from local and regional hospitals and ships containers worldwide to countries with the greatest need.
After a winter trip to Russia in 1992, Harrison helped Carelift International get started collecting and shipping medical supplies, and later provided humanitarian services for Christian Relief Charities for more than five years. Harrison has worked with numerous regional hospitals for 30 years providing a reliable service.
Harrison founded Mission Relief Services in 2001 to fulfill the needs of the underprivileged worldwide. The organization expands the number of projects and recipients of surgical humanitarian aid.
Active in Presbyterian Missions at his church, Harrison saw the need when he traveled to work on mission projects and visit Presbyterians throughout the world.
“The hospitals depend on us for timely pickups and good feedback,” he said.
Mission Relief Services ships out one to three 40-ft containers every month, so it is an endless cycle of collecting and shipping.
“We provide container services to many foundations that do not have a warehouse, but have hospitals and clinics worldwide,” Harrison said. “They need constant support, and we like to evangelize by sending books and Bibles to English-speaking countries.”
Harrison grew up in the Philadelphia area. After graduating from PC, he earned a master’s in health administration from Eastern University and a master’s in English and Publishing from Rosemont College. He has served on Presbyterian missions in more than 30 countries.
Harrison has received honors from the Rotary Club and hospital boards for his service. In 2005, Harrison was recognized by the City of Philadelphia with the Citizen’s Diplomacy award.
He says the culture of service at PC played a part in his efforts to serve others.
“Presbyterian College was and is about participation and this will ultimately lead to a lifetime of service,” Harrison said.
“The ancient Proverb reminds us that ‘life is a vapor,’ and it is hard to believe that I have been out of PC for so long, but the memories are like yesterday. Those of us who graduated four months ago or those who graduated 40 years ago have a bond that is far greater than the degree received or the logo on the shirt.
“We went to Presbyterian College to learn how to serve others and to not trivialize the importance of education and friendships. When we left, we were prepared for a life of service and a high moral character just like the oaks that line the campus.”