May was a transitional month for the Otterbein University Board of Trustees. On May 18, Thomas C. Morrison ’63 completed his second four-year term as chair and retired from the Board and Mark R. Thresher ’78 took over leadership of the board. Morrison joined the Board of Trustees in 1988 and replaced Thomas R. Bromeley ’51 as chair of the Board in 2005.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the chair of the board for Otterbein University, as I have many personal and professional ties to the school,” Thresher said. “I have big shoes to fill—Tom was clearly the right person for the job during a time that Otterbein was going through significant change. I am looking forward to working closely with President Krendl and the entire organization as we advance Otterbein’s mission.”
Prior to his departure, Morrison was honored for his faithful service to the Board, along with his many other accomplishments, with the Distinguished Alumnus Award at the annual Alumni Awards ceremony on April 27. The Distinguished Alumni Award represents the most prestigious award presented by the Otterbein Alumni Association. It honors graduates who have achieved recognized national or international prominence in their chosen career and have made significant contributions to their profession, community and the lives of others. The recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award represents the ideal of a committed, industrious and caring individual to whom the Otterbein community may look as personifying the University’s mission.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Morrison graduated from Otterbein in 1963 with Honors with a major in Comprehensive Social Studies. He attended New York University Law School on a prestigious Root Tilden Scholarship and graduated in 1966 near the top of his class. After law school, he served for four years as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps, including a 13 month tour of duty in South Korea.
After his discharge from the Air Force in 1970, he began practicing law in New York City with the firm then known as Royall, Koegel & Rogers. In 1975, he became a partner in the firm. In 1977, he joined Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, LLP, where he served as a partner in their nationally renowned Litigation Department. He joined the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, in 2010, where he is currently a litigation and trial partner.
Morrison has built a reputation as a nationally-renowned trial and appellate attorney, trying more than 60 commercial litigation cases and more than 35 appeals in state and federal courts throughout the country. He became widely known in the 1990s as a pioneer in the field of false advertising, a new area of law at that time. He has represented a number of large pharmaceutical and consumer-product companies, including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Pizza Hut, and Crayola.
Outside the courtroom, Morrison also writes and presents on trademark, trade dress, and false advertising law. He serves as a panelist on the CPR Panel of Distinguished Neutrals for trademarks and false advertising disputes.
Despite his busy professional schedule, Morrison makes time for his alma mater. Since he joined the Board of Trustees in 1988, he has served in various roles, including chair of the Investment Committee, secretary of the University, vice chair and chair of the Board.
As chair, Morrison has overseen many changes to the University. He says he is most proud of the expansion and renovation of the Science Center; the building of the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science; the hiring of Otterbein’s first woman president; the purchase of properties west of Alum Creek; and the evolution of the academic program, including establishment of the position of provost, formation of three “colleges” within the University, transitioning from quarters to semesters and returning historical roots as “Otterbein University.”
In May, Morrison passed the torch to Thresher, who has served on the Board since 2000.
“Mark Thresher is ideally positioned to preside over Otterbein’s continued evolution and growth,” Morrison said. “One of our major initiatives in recent years has been to dramatically increase Otterbein’s profile in the Columbus and central Ohio business and civic communities. Mark is one of the most influential and respected business leaders in Columbus and is the perfect person to work with President Krendl on this initiative.”
“I have known Mark for 13 years and he is a person of the highest intelligence and integrity. Mark has long been a leader on the Board and loves Otterbein and will continue to work tirelessly on its behalf,” Morrison added.
Thresher graduated from Otterbein in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and launched a career that would culminate in his current position as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Nationwide. Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world and is ranked 100 on the Fortune 500 list.
Mark joined Nationwide in 1996, serving first as the vice president and treasurer for Nationwide. He was quickly promoted to senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Nationwide Financial, the Life and Retirement Services arm of Nationwide. In 2004, he became the president and chief operating officer for Nationwide Financial.
Prior to joining Nationwide, Thresher spent 18 years with KPMG LLP. During his last eight years there he served as the lead engagement partner on a number of insurance organizations throughout the country.
Thresher brings his leadership skills into the community, as well. He is the past chair of the COSI Columbus Board of Trustees and was the campaign chair for the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges from 2009-2011 and currently serves on its Board. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the American College Center for Ethics in Financial Services and the Financial Services Roundtable. He was a Congressional delegate for the 2006 National Summit on Retirement Savings held in Washington, D.C.
Staying loyal to his alma mater, Thresher joined the Otterbein Board of Trustees in 2000 and has served on the Executive and Advancement Investment Committees and as chair of the Audit Committee. He became vice chair in 2006. He was a member of the Otterbein College Recreation Center Steering Committee in 2001.
In honor of his accomplishments, Thresher was awarded the Special Achievement Award by the Alumni Association in 2004. Established in 1966, the Special Achievement Award recognizes excellence and high professional achievement by an individual in his or her field of endeavor. The award is presented to Otterbein graduates whose career contributions have significantly enhanced their profession and/or the organization to which the recipient is employed.
Thresher has been a featured speaker at the Life Insurance and Retirement Industry Conference and the Global Financial Services Conference. He is the author of the article “Insurance Companies Help Manage Financial Risk—Now Is the Time For NAVA Members to Focus on Income Protection,” which was published in National Association for Variable Annuities (NAVA) Outlook (May/June 2004 ed.).
Mark met his wife Deborah Scott Thresher ’77 at Otterbein and they served as King and Queen of Homecoming in 1976. They have two daughters, one of whom, Chelsea, became an Otterbein legacy, graduating from Otterbein in 2006.