Damien Harmon ’96 tells graduates: Believe in yourself and enjoy the ride

   For its 100th graduation ceremony, Bishop Noll Institute welcomed home a commencement speaker who lives as a BNI Warrior in mind, body and soul. 
   Damien Harmon, a 1996 graduate, serves as senior executive vice president of customer, channel experiences and enterprise services for Best Buy Co. Inc., the leading consumer electronics retailer in North America. 
  Harmon, a star athlete at Noll who later played professional football in the NFL Europe League, credits Noll with helping him find his spiritual path during his high school years. He has continued to follow that path through his professional and philanthropic work.
  BNI President Paul Mullaney ’77 introduced Harmon by saying, “In the fall 1992, a young boy from the Glen Park neighborhood in Gary entered the doors here at 1519 Hoffman Street as a freshman. Even though he made his mark here at Bishop Noll in many ways, most notably as a standout on the football field, nobody could predict how he would rise through the ranks of the corporate world.
   “At Augustana University in South Dakota and even for a brief while playing professional football in the NFL Europe league, he made a name for himself as a running back. But the way he has continued to move the chains after his football career has been equally if not more impressive.” 
In addition to playing a lead role on the Best Buy team, Harmon has held executive positions at companies like Sprint PCS and Bridgestone Tires. He has worked in the United States, Europe and Asia. In recent years, Harmon and his wife, Katy, invested in his boyhood home of Gary by supporting the Best Buy Teen Tech Center – at the John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club – through their Damien and Katy Harmon Foundation.
   A father of six who now lives near Nashville, Harmon said the spiritual journey at Noll and the connections to people that he made at BNI was what most affected him in high school. 
   “Being able to find myself was a great connection to the rest of my life,” he said. 
Harmon encouraged students to learn how to leverage and maximize their power, saying that Bishop Noll is the first step in that journey.
   “The reality is I have a dream job,” said Harmon, adding that as a youth, he did not have high expectations. 
   “I was told on my life journey that I wasn’t college material. I was also told I wouldn’t amount to much. Not only did I prove them wrong, but my family and I opened that Teen Tech Center in Gary, Indiana and here’s the great thing about it: That was a six-figure personal commitment from a guy who they said wouldn’t amount to much and wasn’t college material. I never reduced my dreams to the level of my experiences, never, and I would challenge you to do the same … Many people do not reach their full potential because they quit at the point of discomfort.”
   Harmon closed his address by congratulating Ayanna Wash, Bishop Noll’s first Black valedictorian.
“This is the 100th commencement, and you have not only accomplished something special, but you’ve made history,” Harmon told her. “I want to say congratulations to you, but that doesn’t happen without vision, sense of will, resilience and belief.”  
   “...Some of you have very, very clear goals on what’s next and, to you, I say congratulations. For those who are like me who mostly don’t know what’s next, I say it’s OK. Welcome to the real world. Believe in yourself, continue to think about new ideas and possibilities and don’t ever limit your experiences based on where you are today.”
   Harmon reminded graduates about their own impact, telling them the little things matter. 
   “My success did not come from anything that I accomplished in high school or in college. My success did not come from anything anybody gave me. It came because of listening to people, engaging in relationships, building deep connections, adopting leadership lessons from those I wanted to emulate and those I did not … the reality in all is this will be an amazing chapter in your life. And what got you to this point is what you knew. What’s going to lead to your future is what you will learn if you allow yourself to learn and lean in and engage.”
   He ended by telling the Class of 2023, “Enjoy the ride, have fun and I’m always here to support you. Congratulations.”
Bishop Noll Institute, a diverse, Catholic college preparatory school, partners with local faith communities to empower young adults to live their faith in Christ through ministry, scholarship, and leadership.