WRITTEN BY VALENTINE J. BRKICH
Bryan Thornberg ‘89 and his daughter Gina love fishing together. The two of them have cast their lines in some of the best spots in the country. “We’ll scuba dive one day and fish for the fish we saw the next,” says Thornberg, president and CEO of Higher Images, a Bridgeville web design and marketing consulting firm. “It doesn’t get any better than spending time with your kids. No money can replace that.”
Gina, the oldest of two Thornberg girls, studies theater and multimedia at RMU. She also works for her dad at Higher Images doing sound and video production. And she has higher goals: “One day I’ll take over,” she says.
Her father says attending RMU was the biggest thing he ever did.“Coming here and working my way through school gave me a strong work ethic,” Thornberg says. “After that, starting a company was nothing.” That entrepreneurial spirit was on display long before Thornberg started Higher Images. After graduating from Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, he and a friend started their own landscaping business, which quickly became successful. A family friend who was a dean at Robert Morris suggested he check out the school. “He knew that I was an entrepreneur at heart and that Robert Morris, with its strong business background, could enhance my skills,” Thornberg says. “Without him I probably never would have gone to college. He changed my whole life.”
Thornberg took classes in business administration during the day at the university’s old downtown center and night classes at the Moon campus, while working to pay for his education. Following graduation, Thornberg had various jobs — traveling around the country as a corporate trainer for major companies, selling copiers and outdoor power equipment, working for a biotech company, and starting a Florida company that serviced tanker ships. Eventually he came home to Pittsburgh and founded Higher Images. Thornberg also is the president of Marcellus Connection, an online hub for general information, job and event listings, and news about the Marcellus shale gas industry.
Founded in 2000, Higher Images has become a regional leader in Internet marketing. In 2011, the Pittsburgh Business Times named it to the “Pittsburgh Top 100” list of fastest growing private companies in the region. It also ranked No. 8 for fastest employee growth. And the Thornbergs aren’t the only RMU people at the company. Higher Images has had many RMU interns over the years and now has alumni on staff: Daniel Harmon ‘08, senior account executive, and J.D. Tinney ‘10, web designer. “They’ve been a great fit for us,” says Thornberg. “I’ve never hired a Robert Morris grad I didn’t like. They have the type of work ethic, passion, loyalty, and drive that we look for.”