A Call to Action

Without question, a prime hallmark of a profession is education in its principles. Law, medicine, accounting—all are grounded in formal education and training, strengthened by continuing research and given responsible support by individuals, professional societies and enterprises that have a stake in the practice and its reputation.

Such established professions did not spring fullblown from the head of Zeus. They have a long history of development and have, at times, been bruised by struggles to bring their professionals— both practitioners and educators—to a shared vision about what constitutes strong, ethical practice in service to society.

By comparison, public relations practice and education for public relations are still works-inprogress. Contemporary public relations education is still young, still searching for its “home”—and often its legitimacy—in academe. The first initiative to define a curriculum was made only 31 years ago. The field is still largely populated by practitioners who never had an opportunity for its formal study, thus learning their craft primarily from lengthy experience.

Inevitably, that picture is changing. Graduates from public relations academic programs are entering the field in increasing numbers. Many are products of the estimated more than 270 U.S. colleges and universities that now offer at least basic undergraduate study in public relations. As they attain positions of power and influence, their allegiance to formal study will be reflected in their support for education.

Current Levels of Support for Education

But in the meantime, the need for public relations education is urgent and escalating rapidly, surfacing new issues that must be addressed and resolved. These issues present an increasing challenge to professional organizations as well as to individuals who practice and educate in the field of public relations.

While the record of broad support for public relations education by professional groups is growing, there is a critical need for similar action by individual practitioners and the firms, companies and organizations with which they are associated and in which they are influential. Yes, many practitioners are involved as mentors, classroom speakers and advisers and are otherwise engaged in the educational programs of professional societies to which they belong. But too few are contributing financial support to public relations programs in colleges and universities of their choice.

Too few are aware that budgets for public relations studies generally are inadequate in comparison to those for other academic disciplines. At the same time, the population of public relations students commonly exceeds that in other disciplines, making their faculty numbers inadequate. Too often, only one qualified public relations instructor is responsible for teaching and counseling 60 or more majors. Faculty frequently are “borrowed” from other disciplines, who are inexperienced and untrained for public relations instruction. There are meager—if any—resources for public relations educators to attend conferences and professional meetings to interface with practitioners.

At times, the administrator of the academic unit in which public relations is housed has no understanding of—or appreciation for—the expanding dimensions of public relations practice and its educational needs. Administrator perception of public relations is often limited to publicity, promotion and even production, rather than to strategic planning, research and building ethical, trustworthy relationships with constituencies.

At present, philanthropy for public relations education is in its infancy. There are too few endowed professorships, scholarships, lectureships and other resources. Although progress has been made since the Commission’s 1999 report, students and their education are far behind the curve of financial support from the practice when compared to other disciplines such as journalism, advertising and broadcasting.

Challenges and Opportunities for Practitioners

What are some challenges and opportunities for practitioners? Among them:

  • Contributing annually to public relations studies at a college or university of choice.
  • Persuading their employers to establish a scholarship, professorship, chair or resource center for public relations at a college or university of choice.
  • Via their will or a trust, making a bequest to a college or university for its public relations studies or students.
  • Engaging public relations educators for research projects on behalf of clients.
  • Sponsoring educator-in-residence programs in their firms, corporations and organizations.
  • Supporting paid internships for public relations students.
  • Giving priority consideration to public relations graduates for entry-level positions.
  • Working with educators, establish relationships with administrators of the units in which public relations studies are housed in order to build understanding of the contemporary practice and its educational needs.

The Role of Educators

Educators also have an essential and unique role in building financial support for their programs:

  • Cultivating public relations alumni to contribute financially to their programs or a particular public relations project.
  • Nurturing relationships with practitioners and their firms leading to support for a public relations program or project.
  • Recognizing those individuals and firms giving financial support and who become exemplars to encourage others.
  • Building a cooperative relationship with campus administrators, particularly those in the development office.

As other established professions can testify, responsible financial support of education must come from practitioners and their organizations. Such a partnership between education and the practice of public relations is necessary for its reputation and acceptance as a profession by both the academy and society at large.

A Good Place to Start

Contact development staff at your alma mater if it has a public relations program. Otherwise, select a program from certified or accredited units. A list of programs accredited by ACEJMC can be found on ACEJMC’s Website


A list of programs certified by PRSA can be found on PRSA’s Website


A third option is to identify a program that sponsors one of the more than 270 chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Go to www.prssa.org. On the menu under “About Us” at the top of the page, click on “PRSSA Chapters.” You will get a U.S. map to select a state and get a list of colleges and universities in that state with a public relations program. Clicking on a college or university, you will find the name of the PRSSA chapter faculty advisor with his or her e-mail address and a mailing address for the program. A link to the college or university’s Web site also is provided. Either e-mail the faculty advisor or search under “Academic Programs” on the college’s or university’s Web site for the name of the person who heads the public relations program—preferably, a senior faculty member who teaches public relations and has a title such as coordinator. Contact the head of the program and tell him or her you are interested in making a gift. If possible, ask for an on-campus meeting.

You’ll be glad you took the first step!

Sampling of Major Gifts to Public Relations Education

This sampling of major contributions to colleges and universities for public relations education by individuals, corporations, firms and foundations will, the Commission hopes, inspire similar actions. The Commission hopes that practitioners will emulate the philanthropic behavior of these donors and that educators will reach out to the practice to forge relationships that make such gifts a reality. To the best of the Commission’s knowledge, this is the first time such a list has been compiled and published.

The gifts are grouped in categories common to financial support for higher education. The listing is a sampling and is not intended to be comprehensive. Each entry contains five pieces of information in the following order: (1) name of the fund or gift purpose; (2) academic unit and university to which the gift was made; (3) donor(s); (4) gift amount or fund balance; and (5) year the gift was made or the fund was established.

Endowed Chairs

  • Harold Burson Chair in Public Relations
    Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations, College of Communication, Boston University
    Burson-Marsteller, its clients, employees and former parent company, Young & Rubicam
    $1.2 million
    Established 2003
  • Endowed Chair in Public Relations
    School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon
    Now $2.1 million
    Established 1998
  • Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations
    – Includes the Brandt Lectureship and Brandt Research Assistantship; established 2005
    Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University
    Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation (founded by the family of the former chairman of the Dow Chemical Co.)
    Now $2 million
    Established 1989 as a professorship

Endowed Professorships

  • Widmeyer Communications Professorship in Public Relations
    Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, West Virginia University
    Widmeyer Communications; Scott Widmeyer, Chairman & CEO (1974 journalism alumnus)
    Established 2005
  • Hubert J. Bourgeois Endowed Professorship in Communications/Public Relations
    Department of Communication, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    Vesta Bourgeois (deceased)
    Now $152,000
    Established 1981
  • Sloan Professorship in Public Relations
    E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University
    Jerry L. Sloan and the Ford Motor Company
    Now $365,000
    Established 1997

Endowed Lectureships

  • James C. Bowling Executive-In-Residence Lecture Series
    School of Journalism and Telecommunications, University of Kentucky
    Joseph M. Cullman, III, retired chairman of the board at Philip Morris, and alumni of the school
    Now $250,000
    Established 2000
  • Allen H. Center Distinguished Lectureship in Corporate Public Relations
    School of Communication, San Diego State University
    Nancy Center, Allen H. Center, APR, Fellow PRSA (deceased), and the Motorola Foundation
    $150,000 face value
    Estate gift 1991; Lectureship started 2000
  • Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship in Public Relations
    Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Information, and Media, Ball State University
    Ball Corporation, family and friends of Mr. Schranz (deceased), Indianapolis public relations firms and past lecturers
    Now $70,000
    Established 1979; Endowed 1998
  • Albert Walker Distinguished Lecture in Public Relations
    Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University
    Alumni and friends of Dr. Walker (retired)
    Established 2004

Endowed Research Centers

  • Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations
    Includes John W. Felton Endowed Scholarship and John A. Koten Endowed Lectureship; established 2006
    College of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Alabama
    Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Established 2005
  • Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication
    College of Communications, Penn State University
    Ellen and Lawrence G. Foster, APR, Fellow PRSA (1948 journalism alumnus)
    Established 2004
    Robert Wood Johnson 1962 Charitable Trust
    $300,000, 2005
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    $750,000, 2006

Named Facilities

  • C. Richard Yarborough Public Relations Laboratory
    (Used by students in the Public Relations Campaigns capstone course, the lab emulates facilities of a small public relations firm and includes a 12-seat conference room with presentation equipment, plus a workroom with computers, printers, a scanner and telephones.)
    Department of Advertising & Public Relations, Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia
    Friends of Dick Yarborough and the Georgia Chapter of PRSA
    Dedicated 1995
  • Duffey Public Relations Writing Laboratory
    (Originally dedicated to teaching public relations writing skills, the lab consisted of 17 computer stations and state-of-the-art instructional equipment. Public relations writing is now taught in all computer labs.)
    Department of Advertising & Public Relations, Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia
    Lee Duffey, Jr., and Jenny Deal Duffey (1980 public relations alumni)
    Dedicated 2000
  • William F. Doescher Campaigns Lab for Advertising and Public Relations
    (Simulates an agency environment where students can meet with clients, develop strategic campaigns based on research and create deliverables.)
    Public Relations Department, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
    William F. Doescher (1962 public relations master’s alumnus) and D&B (Dun & Bradstreet) Corp.

Endowed Faculty Professional Development Funds

  • C. Del Galloway Professional Advancement Fund in Public Relations
    Department of Public Relations, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida
    C. Del Galloway, APR, Fellow PRSA (1981 & 1983 public relations alumnus)
    Established 2006
  • Sandra and Stuart Newman Professional Advancement Fund in Public Relations
    Department of Public Relations, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida
    Sandra and Stuart G. Newman (1946 journalism alumnus)
    Now more than $33,000
    Established 2000

Endowed Scholarships: Undergraduate & Graduate

  • Ann Barkelew/Fleishman-Hillard Scholarship
    School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Minnesota
    Fleishman-Hillard and Chairman/CEO John Graham, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Established 2001
  • Thomas Bartikoski Memorial Scholarship in Public Relations
    School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Minnesota
    Family and friends of Wendy Horn and the late Mr. Bartikoski (1972 journalism alumnus)
    Established 2000
  • Ofield Dukes Undergraduate Scholarship in Public Relations
    John H. Johnson School of Communication, Howard University
    Kathy Hughes; other friends of Mr. Dukes; and Phillip Morris Companies, Inc.
    Now $31,000
    Established 2002
  • Henry C. Rogers Endowed Scholarship (for public relations master’s students)
    Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
    Marcia Ross and Ron Rogers, children of Mr. Rogers (deceased)
    Established 2006
  • Paul Allen Bennett Graduate Scholarship in Public Relations
    Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Information and Media, Ball State University
    Claire Bennett and the Indianapolis Public Relations Society
    Now $60,000
    Established 1990

Endowed Funds for Other Student Assistance

  • Rich Long/Dow Chemical Scholarship
    (Assists a student completing an internship in New York City or Washington, DC)
    Department of Communications, College of Fine Arts and Communications, Brigham Young University
    Dow Chemical Company and family and friends of Prof. Long (deceased)
    Now more than $20,000
    Established late 1980s
  • PRSSA Leadership Award
    (Funds PRSSA dues for two student chapter officers and national conference registration for a developing student chapter leader)
    Department of Communications, College of Fine Arts and Communications, Brigham Young University
    Dr. Laurie J. Wilson, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Now $9,000
    Established 1995
  • James E. Grunig and Larissa A. Grunig Graduate Research Fund
    (Helps defray costs of research for Ph.D. candidates’ dissertations)
    Department of Communication, College of Arts & Humanities, University of Maryland, College Park
    Dr. Elizabeth L. Toth and friends and former students of Drs. Grunig
    Now $2,000
    Established 2005

Other Gift Purposes

  • Weber Shandwick/USC Annenberg International Public Relations Fellows Program
    (Provides scholarships to eight to 15 public relations master’s students per year to offset costs of completing summer internships at Weber Shandwick offices in London, Hong Kong and Cape Town, South Africa)
    Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
    Weber Shandwick
    Annual Grant: $20,000 per year; $100,000 committed to date
    2002 to present
  • The Rayburn Fund for Excellence in Public Relations
    (Will provide stipends to cover expenses of distinguished visiting lecturers)
    College of Communication, Florida State University
    Colleagues, former students, and friends of Dr. Jay Rayburn, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Endowment campaign in progress: $120,000 to date
    Announced 2006

This first-ever sampling of philanthropy for public relations education was made possible by initial research sponsored by the Champions for PRSSA. Comments or questions should be directed to Commission member Dr. Kathleen S. Kelly at kskelly@jou.ufl.edu