I had the special honor of co-chairing Thursday night’s Plank Center awards dinner where nearly 300 public relations practitioners, educators and students gathered at the Union League Club of Chicago to recognize seven remarkable PR mentors and leaders.
Honored for their mentorship commitment and leadership were:
· Legacy: Harold Burson, founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller; Dan Edelman, founder and chairman, Daniel J. Edelman, Inc.; and Al Golin, chairman, GolinHarris. Harold, Dan and Al established three of the greatest U.S. public relations agencies and over the course of more than fifty years have touched the lives of countless public relations professionals.
· Corporate PR Executive: Marilyn Laurie, president, Laurie Consulting, and former senior AT&T Executive (awarded posthumously). Marilyn reached the highest levels of AT&T in her career and helped those inside and outside the company develop the skills to lead.
· Young Professional: Kevin Saghy, public relations and marketing specialist, Chicago Cubs. Kevin is a rising leader in public relations who already has made his mark on the profession, having served as the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national president. I hired Kevin into his first PR job at Ketchum after his graduation from Ohio Northern University three years ago.
· Academic: Dr. E. Culpepper Clark, dean, College of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Georgia. Cully has been instrumental in mentoring educators and students throughout his career, ensuring that public relations remains one of the highest regarded fields in the community.
· Executive: Billy Shore, founder and executive director, Share Our Strength. Billy founded Share Our Strength in 1984 to help address childhood hunger in the United States. Today the organization brings together community groups, activists and food programs to surround children with nutritious food where they live, learn and play. Since its inception in 1964, Share Our Strength has raised more than $275 million and supported more than 1,000 groups around the world.
The Plank Center was founded five years ago at the University of Alabama and named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank. The center is devoted to developing and recognizing outstanding performance in the profession and classroom. Through a variety of programs, and in concert with groups and associations, the Center works to nurture and help develop outstanding leaders.
Co-chairing the dinner logistics and program with me were fellow Plank Center board members Keith Burton, president of Insidedge, and Bill Heyman, founder and CEO of Heyman Associates. Proceeds from the event will permit the Plank Center to give more than two dozen scholarships and research grants.