Missing Betsy Plank

Brian Price

Serving as the PRSSA 2013-2014 National President, I had the privilege of attending last week’s Plank Center advisory board meeting in Chicago. Members of the board are true titans of the public relations industry, so I’ll admit that I felt a bit out of place. Nevertheless, I quickly became comfortable.

The reason for my comfort was the genuine love of public relations advancement that all board members share, the foundation of which comes from their longstanding loyalty to a friend, Betsy Plank — the namesake of the Plank Center.

We’ve entered an era where no member of the Public Relations Student Society of America was active when Betsy, known as the godmother of PRSSA, passed away in the spring of 2010. In fact, many current members were in the process of finishing high school.

After hearing many stories of Betsy’s passion for public relations and dedication to helping students, I couldn’t help but feel one thing: like I missed out. None of us will meet her, hear her speak or understand her ability to (as it’s been described to me) light up a room with her presence.

Many are admired and honored by those they never met. But as I reflect upon the great and inspiring tales I’ve heard about Betsy, I realize that they are so impactful I actually miss her, even though we’ve never met.

Some of the things I’ve learned about Betsy Plank that I will apply to my both my professional and personal life:

  • As technology grew, she still insisted on the importance of direct human interaction. The sincerity of a personal connection can go a long way.
  • Betsy was deeply passionate about mentorship. She wanted to set an example for those to come, which should inspire all of us to not only seek out help and advice, but also to step up to assist others. And to join the Champions for PRSSA, which she founded in 1981.
  • She continuously cared about others much more than herself. It was her focus on others that has, unintentionally, brought her so much attention and respect today.
  • Her tireless dedication to students was founded in thoughtfulness and inspiration. Listening and helping to solving problems can have a much greater effect than selling solutions.

In size, PRSSA is greater than ever, but we cannot be greater than ever in substance without fully embracing our history. PRSSA National will strive to preserve Betsy’s legacy among current students and I will continuously seek opportunities to share that legacy with others so they, too, can respect, admire and miss Betsy Plank.

Brian Price, PRSSA 2013-2014 National President, is a second-year graduate student at Northern Michigan University and has been a PRSSA member since the fall of 2010. While in graduate school, he serves as a graduate assistant to NMU’s director of communications.

7 thoughts on “Missing Betsy Plank

  1. Betsy administered the APR oral exam to me in 1983, which is how I first met her. While I had been in the business for 15 years then, she was able to give me useful advice and a bit of professional boost.

  2. Betsy was a tireless advocate for students. I first met her in the early 70s when I was North Pacific District Director for the San Jose State U PRSSA Pearce Davies Alpha Chapter.

  3. When I was a student at Illinois State University, Betsy presented me with the 2nd place award in the L.L.L. Golden Writing Competition. They had forgotten to award it at first, but when they did remember, she took extra time to make sure I didn’t feel slighted. Nearly 15 years later, when she came to my PRSA chapter for our 10th anniversary party, she recognized me and the circumstances where we met. An amazing lady and truly dedicated to PR students.

  4. Brian, thanks for sharing your experience. Betsy had passed away days before I was starting my term as PRSSA national president. Like you, I felt like we would all feel left out without Betsy’s physical presence. However, Betsy inspired so many people, especially those on the board – Ron, Kevin, Gary, Keith, Bruce, et al., I’m looking at you guys! – to continue carrying on her mission. While she might not physically be here, I can assure you that Betsy’s spirit and energy are most certainly still among us all.

  5. Great report, Brian, and thanks for keeping Betsy’s name and great work alive. She lives in so many of us. Alan Kelly, PRSSA National President, 1980

  6. A wonderful tribute to Betsy, who I first met in 1984 at my first PRSA international conference. As a leader, she was unmatched in our field. While others focused on their leadership, she dedicated her efforts to advancing and mentoring students, educators and emerging professionals. That’s real leadership.

  7. Excellent post, Brian. I know you put a lot of thought into how to capture the lessons of someone who influenced so many of us. Appreciate you keeping her memory alive for PRSSA members today.

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