Communication Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee
On Thursday, November 3, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication inducted its 33rd member into its Alumni Hall of Fame, Chris Tomasso, ’93.
“How I got to UCF and here today is a story of fortuitous events, a few people having tremendous impact on my life, drive, determination, and a lot of luck,” Tomasso said in the beginning of his acceptance speech.
Tomasso graduated with his bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations from UCF in 1993. He has remained actively engaged with his alma mater since. He is philanthropically involved with UCF Athletics, the UCF College of Arts & Humanities, the UCF College of Sciences, and UCF Advancement. He also served on the UCF Alumni Association’s Board of Directors for seven years from 2002 until just last year.
Tomasso is a marketing, communications and brand management visionary with more than 23 years of experience in the fields of communications, entertainment and restaurants.
Tomasso currently serves as the President for First Watch Restaurants, Inc., the nation’s leading breakfast, brunch and lunch concept where he oversees the strategic direction of the company including restaurant operations, marketing and culinary.
NSC Director Robert Littlefield, Ph.D., opened the award ceremony with a recap of the school’s successful year. He recognized the past Nicholson School of Communication Hall of Fame inductees in attendance, honoring each of them with a lapel pin. Peter Cranis, Michael Griffin, Roger Pynn, Roy Reid and Daniel Ward were past inductee members who attended to support Tomasso’s induction.
In his acceptance speech, Tomasso told guests of his journey from being a first-generation college student working his way through school to finding success during his time at UCF.
Tomasso kept busy at UCF; serving as president of the PR Club, a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, while working nights and weekends to afford tuition.
Tomasso was offered the opportunity to intern at the Orlando Magic during his time at UCF. He told the story of interviewing for the position; walking into a room full of better dressed, more qualified students seeking the same internship. Tomasso walked into his interview with Cari Coats ’79, a now fellow NSC Alumni HOF inductee and vice president of the Magic’s marketing at the time.
“I told her I would work harder than anyone else applying for the positon and that if she took a chance on me I wouldn’t let her down,” he recalled. The chance was given to Tomasso and he worked hard, learning a plethora from Coats and the opportunity.
After his graduation Tomasso worked as a marketing assistant at Sunshine Network, and then was offered a job at Curley & Pynn, working for another NSC Alumni HOF member, Roger Pynn ’73. Although Sunshine Network offered Tomasso a significant promotion to stay, he took the lower salary to work for Curley & Pynn. And he doesn’t regret his decision.
“The real value in my time at Curley & Pynn was once again working alongside and learning from a true professional,” he said. “Roger taught me about strategy, community involvement, the importance of high quality work and what it means to be a trusted advisor.”
Tomasso moved from Curley & Pynn to Hard Rock Café, where he spent more than 10 years and served as vice president of worldwide marketing. He was then offered the position of vice president of marketing for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
In 2006, he then joined First Watch Restaurants as chief marketing officer with an equity ownership position. Ten years later, Tomasso is now president, overseeing the strategic direction of the company, and in 2014 was named a Top Private Company CMO.
“Had UCF not accepted me, my life would be vastly different and I wouldn’t be here,” he said in closing. “Just having a degree from the same institution as the people that had such an impact on my career is humbling enough to me, but to be inducted alongside of them here in the Nicholson School of Communication Hall of Fame is something I never could have imagined.”
View photos from the event here.