Announcement and Tribute to Dr. Judy VanSlyke Turk on her passing May 2, 2021

Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, a globally known and respected public relations educator, author, editor and researcher, who built her exemplary academic career on work as a journalist and corporate communications professional and who was honored for her leadership by every major public relations association, passed away in Richmond VA on Sunday, May 2, after a lengthy illness which she endured with her usual grace and grit.

Dr. Turk was preceded in death by her parents and her sister; is survived by her brother, William Kulstad of Toronto, Ohio, and his wife, Susan, and a niece, Nancy Davis, of Celina, Texas. She is mourned by colleagues and friends around the world.

Memorial services will be scheduled at later dates at the Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, and in Toronto, Ohio. In addition, colleagues of Judy are planning a virtual “sharing memories of Judy” event for later

this summer and information about the event will be posted August 1 online at the Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University (

Dr. Turk was director of the School of Mass Communications (now the Robertson School of Media and Culture) at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2002-2010 and when she retired from teaching in 2013 she was named a VCU professor emerita.

Memorial gifts may be made to the VCU Foundation in support of the Judy VanSlyke Turk Endowed Scholarship, which was established with gifts from colleagues and friends in honor of her service. Gifts may be sent, noting ‘Judy VanSlyke Turk Endowed Scholarship,’ to VCU Foundation, Box 842039, Richmond, Virginia 23284 or make a gift online at (keyword search ‘Turk’.)

Prior to VCU, Dr. Turk was dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina, director of the journalism and mass communications program at Kent State University and a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University and Syracuse University.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, she was a visiting professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University (FIU). She maintained an association with FIU as a research fellow in the university’s Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication.

She headed the Kopenhaver Center’s national survey of communication professionals, released in April 2016, the first survey to include practitioners from six major communication disciplines at the same time and using the same survey instrument.

Her final professional engagement was to guide mid-career students in their capstone research projects in the M.S. degree program at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, where she began her teaching career.

Dr. Turk worked professionally in Chicago for The Associated Press and in university and corporate public relations before beginning her academic career.

One of her most notable achievements was helping to establish the first woman’s college in the United Arab Emirates at Zayed University, where she was later named the founding dean of the College of Communication and Media Sciences, a position she held for 21⁄2 years. Colleagues recalled that she thought heading off to the Middle East to work with reigning royalty in creating something that was entirely new was a great adventure and she regaled those colleagues with regular updates on her work and life in Dubai.

She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and her doctorate from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Dr. Turk was past president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communications (ASJMC) and of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC), where she held numerous elected positions. She also held leadership roles in the Educators Academy of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She was president (2010-2012) of the Arab-U.S. Association of Communication Educators.

Dr. Turk was involved for more than two decades with the national accreditation of journalism and mass communication academic programs, and was a member of the Accrediting Committee of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) from 2009-2012.

Dr. Turk was past chair of the College of Fellows of the Public Relations Society of America and was an engaged member for many years of the Commission on Public Relations Education (CPRE), including serving as co-chair. She conducted research and edited or co-edited a number of the Commission’s major reports. She was to edit the CPRE’s most in-depth and far-ranging report, “Fast Forward: Foundations and Future State, Educators and Practitioners”, but illness made that huge task an impossibility.

She was named Outstanding Public Relations Educator in 1992 by PRSA. In 2005, she received the Pathfinder Award from the Institute for Public Relations for her lifetime contributions to research. In 2006, AEJMC recognized her as its “Outstanding Woman in Journalism Education” and she also received the AEJMC Dorothy Bowles Public Service Award in 2013. In that same year, she won the Bruce K. Berger Educator Mentor Award from the University of Alabama’s Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

She was founding associate editor of Journalism Studies, an international refereed journal. She was a member of the editorial advisory board for Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Journal, Public Relations Review and Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly.

Dr. Turk was co-editor, with Jean Valin and John Paluszek, of “Public Relations Case Studies From Around the World” (Peter Lang, 2014), a collection of 17 global case studies that illustrate “best PR practices” in countries on every continent and in corporate, not-for-profit and governmental organizations. She also is co-author, with Dean Kruckeberg and Doug Newsom, of “This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations” (Cengage/Wadsworth Publishing), now in its 11th edition.

She had a deep commitment to global public relations education. She was a long-time member of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management and consulted and lectured on public relations and journalism/mass communications teaching and curriculum issues in Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.

Dr. Turk’s influence on the field of public relations was ongoing and far-reaching, through her writing, her research and publications, her presentations and leadership roles in the numerous associations where she was deeply involved. She was committed to the art and science of public relations education and creating a working partnership between the practitioners and educators. Literally thousands of students, educators, and practitioners learned much of what they know about the ethical practice of public relations and have advanced in their careers because of Dr. Turk’s efforts and inspiration.

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This announcement and tribute to Judy VanSlyke Turk was prepared in collaboration with her family with admiration and affection by several of her long-time colleagues. She leaves this world a better place, and us better people for having known her.