Tom Abrahamson - Alumni | CMCMA | SIU

Southern Illinois University



Tom Abrahamson

Image of Tom Abrahamson

Cinema and Photography, 1978

Chairman, Lipman Hearne, Inc.

Tom Abrahamson’s career is marked by three driving passions.

His journey began at age 16 as a self-described photography geek. In high school, his favorite art teacher secretly entered one of Tom’s photographs in the National Scholastic Art Awards. The photo of a young boy selling flags at a Fourth of July parade ended up winning the photography category and was part of a traveling exhibit hosted by high schools across the U.S.

Tom’s award caught the attention of SIU. One day, his phone rang. It was a professor from SIU’s Cinema and Photography department asking if he could visit Tom’s suburban Chicago home, set up a projector in his living room and show the work of the students and faculty in the department. That home visit had a profound effect on his career in two ways. First, the quality of the department’s work was astounding, and second, his student recruitment experience was one that he would never forget and would aspire to replicate later in his career.

Abrahamson’s years at SIU were a classic example of the adage “learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom.” He states that his academic program was superb, studying with legendary professors, such as Chuck Swedlund and David Gillmore. Outside of class, he found a mentor in Virginia Rinella, Thompson Point’s housing director. Rinella recruited Tom to be a Resident Assistant, a job he loved, and where he met countless role models, many of whom were grad students in SIU’s Higher Education Administration program. His new passion: higher education. After SIU, Abrahamson completed a master’s in higher education administration in Ohio. He then spent 15 years working in college admissions and marketing, his last nine as DePaul University’s Associate VP for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions, a role that included marketing the university.

In 1994, he dove into his third passion, nonprofit marketing, leaving DePaul to become an “intrapreneur” at Lipman Hearne, building a higher education marketing practice. Since joining 22 years ago, he helped quintuple the size of the company and is now the company’s Chairman and largest shareholder.

Tom also believes strongly in volunteerism. He has served on the American Marketing Association’s Board of Directors and has chaired the AMA’s Foundation Board, the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago and Urban Gateways, and he is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of Dominican University.

Chairman, Lipman Hearne