Six Great Mentors Share Common Qualities: Passion for Their Jobs and Commitment to Help Others

A “Who’s Who” in public relations showed up in Chicago Thursday night to salute six role-model mentors at the Plank Center’s second annual “Milestones in Mentoring” gala. 

The outstanding mentors receiving recognition at the second annual awards dinner in Chicago Thursday night were:

  •  Legacy: Ann Barkelew, senior counselor and founding general manager of Fleishman Hillard Minneapolis/St. Paul and former vice president, corporate communications, Dayton Hudson Corporation.
  • Agency: Howard Paster (posthumously), former chairman and chief executive officer, Hill & Knowlton
  • Young Professional: Joseph Tateoka, associate, Technology Practice, Burson-Marsteller
  • Educator: Dr. Rochelle Ford, associate dean for research and academic affairs of the John H. Johnson School of Communications, Howard University
  • Corporate: John Onoda, advisory board, Fleishman Hillard, former head of corporate communications at Levi Strauss & Co., General Motors, Visa USA and Charles Schwab & Co. (See John’s Career Capsule)
  • Executive: Peter Hirshberg, chief executive officer, The Re:imagine Group

While all six honorees have taken quite different career paths, they share two of the essential qualities of great mentors—passion for their jobs and a commitment to helping others succeed.

The awards program was the idea of Betsy Plank, perhaps the ultimate mentor of young professionals during her long and amazing life. Sadly, Betsy died six months before last year’s inaugural awards gala.  Betsy was the founder and a generous benefactor of the Plank Center, which is headquartered at her alma mater, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Plank Center was formed to help bridge the gap and improve communication between PR professionals and academics.   Plank Center programs now include academic research grants on PR leadership research, student scholarships, Webinars and a Fellows program that places faculty members in agency and corporate settings for two weeks each summer. 

Five years ago, I was invited by Betsy to join her and a dedicated group of peers as founding board members of the Center.  Many of our decisions are guided by the unspoken question, “What would Betsy do?”  As a result, the organization is thriving during tough economic times for most non-profits.

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