The Plank Center Adds Members to its National Board of Advisers

The board of advisers for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations has re-elected five members and added two new advisers, bringing the group to 24.

Advisers re-elected to three-year terms are:

  • Bruce K. Berger, professor emeritus, University of Alabama, and research director, The Plank Center.
  • Ron Culp, professional director of M.A. program, DePaul University
  • Daniel O’Donnell, director, Brunswick (New York).
  • Gary McCormick, director of corporate communications marketing and public relations, Scripps Networks Interactive.
  • Rick White, associate vice chancellor of communications and public affairs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“That all of these dynamic public relations experts and leaders agreed to continue their service to the Center and to its mission of developing leadership values and skills among public relations practitioners, educators and students is a testament to the kind of leaders they are,” said Dr. Karla Gower, director of the Plank Center and Behringer Distinguished Professor in the department of advertising and public relations at UA.

The newly elected advisers are:

  • Bridget Coffing, senior vice president and chief communications officer, McDonald’s Corporation.
  • Alicia Thompson, general manager, Edelman (Atlanta).

“We are delighted these two outstanding public relations leaders have agreed to join the board,” said Gower. “Both have impressive leadership abilities that complement those of the leading academics and professionals in public relations serving on the board.”


About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

In 2005, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees established The Plank Center, named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank, to develop and recognize 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.

In addition to national leaders in the practice and education, the Center Board includes an ex officio position for the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America that represents more than 11,000 members in 300-plus colleges and universities.

The Center is housed in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. UA’s public relations program, with nearly 600 students, is the largest undergraduate degree program within the College. The program is certified by the Public Relations Society of America and for six years has been ranked among the top five public relations programs in the country by PRWeek magazine.

More information about the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations can be found at



Our Mission

The Plank Center’s mission is to help develop and recognize outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. The Center works to achieve its mission by:

Advancing knowledge of leadership values and skills in the profession;

Supporting research, teaching, service, and professional educational efforts that help develop diverse, responsible and trustworthy leaders;

Bridging the interests and vision of the practice and education; and

Collaborating with other groups and associations to nurture the ethical and effective practice of public relations.