BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College had the pleasure of welcoming back one of its own, James J. Harris ’84, to campus on Thursday as keynote speaker for the annual Fall Convocation.

Harris majored in history and political science at Bethany and has led a distinguished career as an attorney with L Brands, home of Bath & Body Works, White Barn candles, PINK, and Victoria’s Secret Beauty & Accessories, for over 17 years.

Harris’ business ventures have led him to every corner of the globe. He managed teams building flagship stores in places like Ireland, Scotland, China, Hong Kong, London, and more. He currently serves as vice president of real estate-legal services and government affairs, where he has led in-house teams and outside firms in the drafting, negotiation, and processing of more than 600 real estate transactions annually.

Harris addressed the students by sharing his perspectives about his experience at Bethany and career in the retail corporate world. He reflected back on his time at Bethany—a time he described as unique and fun. He shared snippets of memories about going to college in the 80’s, and how even though times then were different, much has stayed the same.

“It’s a delicate balance between understanding and respecting history while at the same time stepping forward into the future,” says Harris. “This is especially true in business and the corporate world, as I’ve experienced it firsthand many times in my career. My best advice is to get your head around change, get comfortable with it and remember, change is the only constant in life. How you adapt or react to change can either make you or break you.”

He encouraged students to embrace all the change in the world, as in doing so, he believes they become more marketable. He then shared three key “themes” of his legal, business, and corporate career– strong substantive skills, personal accountability, and people or communication skills. He believes these three themes have shaped his success. Then, Harris took those themes and related them to his real life corporate and business experiences.

Harris concluded his presentation with a reflection on an interaction with 1927 graduate Dr. Forrest Kirkpatrick. He told the students about an analogy Kirkpatrick made of a stone on campus, saying “Do you know you are standing at the center of the universe and you can go anywhere from here? It’s up to you.”

Convocation also announced Staff Awards, Faculty Awards, Presidents and Dean’s List students, and many others. Below is a full list of award winners.

Anna Ruth Bourne Award: Phi Mu

W. Kirk. Woolery Award: Phi Kappa Tau

Richard B. Kenney Freshman Leadership Award: Ava Lee

John R. Taylor Memorial Award for Liberal Arts: Dr. David Deiuliis

President’s Faculty Award: Melanee Sinclair

President’s Staff Award: Kathy Burd and Denny McMaster


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.