At Princeton, he was advertising manager of The Daily Princetonian and a member of Charter Club. His senior-year roommates were Starr Ford, Dave Hudnut, and Howard Nelson.
After three years in the Navy, Harrison became administrative assistant to Tom Watson, the iconic CEO of IBM. After three years, however, he quit to buy a neighborhood bank, which he expanded into a six-bank holding company that, in turn, he sold in 1987 for $250 million. Thereafter, he spent his life looking for deals. “He was a deal junkie,” a daughter said. He was gruff, evidently, but a superb negotiator and also motivator.
His greatest joy in life, he said, was his three daughters. “A parent’s twin roles,” he said, “are to try to pass on a work ethic and instill a social conscience.” All work in the “family office,” generating and then disbursing money through a family foundation for health services, new housing, beautification projects, and encouraging youth in Chicago’s perhaps most distressed neighborhood. There is also a Steans-supported charter school that sends 80 percent of its graduates to college. Sixty young music professionals from around the world compete annually for grants from the Steans Music Institute, which Harrison created in honor of his wife, Lois.