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Matthew Harrison

Matthew Harrison

Homecoming. Alumni events.

The Foundation annual membership meeting. The Distinguished President’s Trust Dinner. Receptions and dinners at the President’s home. The annual Egg hunt.

If you attended any of these major events within the past couple of years, chances are you bumped into ETSU senior Matt Harrison there.

In addition to his full-time studies as a Spanish and business student, Matt is a temporary employee in the Office of University Advancement, where he works tirelessly behind the scenes helping coordinate these and other special events, doing everything from managing invitations, assisting in the purchasing of gifts, working with caterers, and helping with setup and close-down. Almost always, he is the first to arrive and the last to leave.

And he has loved every minute of it.

“I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had not come to ETSU and met all of my wonderful co-workers in University Advancement,” Matt says.  “I absolutely love what I do and I have met so many great people on this campus and within the community.

“I have discovered how much I really enjoy event planning and all the behind-the-scenes details that are involved in pulling these events together.  The people I have met and the experiences I have received have touched my life in so many ways.”

When Matt arrived at ETSU in the fall of 2012, most people assumed he was a freshman. After all, he had just graduated (15th out of 437 in his class) from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport.

But through the dual-enrollment program and advanced placement testing, Matt came to ETSU two years ago as a second-semester sophomore.  And by this August, precisely two years later, he will be ready to cross the stage as a graduate of East Tennessee State University.

Matt’s college search during his senior year of high school yielded many offers, including one from Columbia University in New York City.  His initial decision was to move away from the region to attend college, but tragedy struck close to home in the months prior to his scheduled departure.

His grandmother, who had helped raise Matt, became very ill.

“I knew she likely didn’t have much time remaining and I couldn’t leave her, so I decided I would go to ETSU to be close to and help care for her,” he said.  “She did so much for me in my life, and I wanted to reciprocate as much as I possibly could.”

His grandmother passed away during Matt’s first year at ETSU.  He says he is very grateful that he was able to be with her during her final months.

During his time at ETSU, Matt has also served as a member of the President’s Pride organization and has worked as a Spanish tutor.  And, this past May, he took “the opportunity of a lifetime” by studying abroad in Rome for three weeks with Jeremy Ross’ architectural history program.

“Before that trip, I had only been in five states in my entire life,” he said.  “Now, I can’t wait to go back and see more of this world.”