Speech: Dr. Judy VanSlyke Turk, 2013 Educator Honoree

BRUCE HARRISON: What a great evening, you guys are just terrific to do this, and give us a chance to get together once a year. Congratulations Keith and Ron, Karla, everyone who has a part in putting this great night together. If you look at your program, they say that we’re up to like the fourth presenter here, and I can see who the first three were by looking at the program.

But ladies and gentleman, I am your mystery presenter. Well, my name is Bruce Harrison and I’m here for a great opportunity to take part in this event. And to introduce the winner of this year’s Bruce K. Burger Award to an outstanding educator and extraordinary guide to a lot of people.

A friend to all of us and a mentor to a number of individuals and tonight, what I will do rather than go through the biography of Judy VanSlyke Turk which appears in your program. I’m going to try bringing you some of the comments from some of those who have been mentored, the mentees, who are remembering Judy and who sent in some information.

The reason my name isn’t in here is that this should be done by Maria. And Maria just couldn’t get here tonight, but Maria, later on I’ll quote what some of her remarks might have been. Well, Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., who just recently stepped down as Director of the School of Mass Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University.

So, now Professor in Emerita Turk, I’m going to go through some of the accomplishments that we have evidence through emails that I’ve received. Before she joined VCU in 2002, Judy just switched on a lot of communications, enlightenment not only in the U.S. but all over the world, she’s been everywhere.

She has helped to bring along communication and journalism. Part of her background, most recently before VCU and the United Arab Emirate. She was the founding Dean of the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University, and she did that for nearly three years. She had gone to the Middle East from South Carolina.

Where she had been at the University of South Carolina as Dean of the Journalism and Mass Communication College. Before that, Kent State, South Carolina, University of Oklahoma, Louisiana State University, and her launch in teaching and rep’s mentoring at the college level at Syracuse University. At this point, I could throw in like two names, including Maria, of very important people.

Maria Russell, who we know now as the chair of the PR program at Syracuse, couldn’t be here tonight but she sent along this message. That is, Judy I am such a fan of yours, I am forever grateful for your generosity, your advice, your political savvy and in guiding me over some 25 plus years.

And this is the part where I guess she wanted me to read this. Judy Turk also has the best, the most wicked sense of humor. So maybe tonight you can use your wicked sense of humor when you’re up here. But she wishes, Maria wishes she could be here.

So that’s VIP number one. VIP number two is my daughter Courtney who went to Syracuse and was mentored by Maria. As one of the earlier speakers talked about how we got this chain of mentoring as it passes through the profession. So, from Judy to Maria to my daughter Courtney, and I should have called Courtney up out in California ask her to say something here but didn’t.

But I know she would be appreciative of the advice outside of what dad was giving her over the years while she was in that very potent learning curve while in college. So back to some of the highlights. That is that Judy is the past President of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Like putting that together. Journalism and mass communication, which is what she and I both had some experience in. I was a newspaper reporter, came to Washington as a press secretary, and she was, for a while, a professional with associated press. And she was brilliant in that role, so she got to be Head of the Association of Journalism and Mass Communication.

And Maria, in her email to me, just underscored the fact that very few, if any, women had ever been elected to head up that organization. That journalists always grabbed that title. You know how pushy we journalists are. So, the fact that she had that role is, again, another indication of the influence, the prowess, the intelligence, and the leadership that Judy possesses and has passed on.

She’s the outstanding woman, she was and last year, the outstanding woman in journalism education, getting the award from that journalism communication group. That was in 2006 when she got that. So, writer, lecturer, teacher, mentor. I mentioned the Middle East, also in Eastern Europe, The Baltics, Russia, Asia. I think if we could turn up the applause monitor or meter in all those countries we would be blown away by the approbation that is out there around the world because of Judy.

And let’s see, hold on, here’s another one, this just in. Elizabeth Toth, this came in from Dr. Toth, who won this recognition last year. Now, Elizabeth, you here? She’s not here, alright, well she won last year, but she said to send a note from her role now, she’s at the University of Maryland heading up the department of communication.

Elizabeth said to tell you, your accomplishment Judy, served as an example to me to what it means to be a leader. Someone who uses her talents and her ideas not only to lead but to achieve a vision on behalf of an organization of other leaders. And that’s what leaders do.

Leaders create other leaders, and each of us when we do any mentoring, we are putting ourselves in the position, Greg Elliot will take credit for this one, he kind of taught me this, we are all stakeholders in the success of other people. So, doing that, you’re spending your life, or part of your life, important parts of your life, in being a stakeholder in somebody else’s success.

Well, that’s Judy VanSlyke Turk. And this, what actually, Judy herself asked that I got the email from Mona. Mona was a Chinese student that Judy taught, and here’s a two-page memo. I’ll read a couple of paragraphs. It went on and on, a really excellent, wonderful memo. I’ll give it to you, I’ll give it to you Judy.

It says that Judy and I used to quote an old Chinese saying to describe our relationship, which is, quote, a friendship between generations and regardless of any age gap is what matters. Now, I’d like to add that she’s more than family because she shares the friendship which is not often seen in a Chinese family.

I guess she knows that. In addition, she’s more than a friend and she always plays the perfect role as a great mentor. She says, congratulations on the award Judy, I’m very happy for you. And I’m sure Ms. Dallon. Who is Ms. Dallon? My dog. Your dog. All right, I’m sure that your dog is very proud of you too. So with that.


JUDY VANSLYKE TURK: Thank you so much. That was so good of you to do that. Thank you so much. I first want to thank The Plank Center. For this great honor. It was a complete surprise to me and very gratifying in that. I’m very grateful for the students, the faculty colleagues, the professional practitioners who allowed me to enter into their professional careers.

Some of them, since the time, they were students in my classes, way back in like 1980. And to see them grow and become leaders in their own right today is probably one of the best rewards of having been a mentor to them. I also want to say how much I appreciate Bruce stepping in at the last minute and doing the honors for Maria, who had planned to be here until a week ago when y’all know what happens when work crises arise, had to remain in Syracuse.

So, Bruce, thank you for being that. Where are you? The anonymous, the anonymous introducer. I have to tell you a little something about Maria and I; we’ve had a relationship back to when I was a faculty member at Syracuse and talked her into coming and teaching part-time for us.

And then when I accepted a job at Louisiana State University and was moving on, I convinced her that she should apply for my vacant position. She did and she got the position, and she is still there and that’s now, I’m not even going to do the math. Some days she thanks me profusely for giving her the entree to that opportunity, and there are other days where she is cursing me.

I also want to give an extra special thank you to Betsy, for having created this wonderful center. I came to Chicago quite often for various accrediting meetings, and every time I was in town I would call Betsy and say, Betsy, can we get together while I’m here? And it was her favorite venue to bring me to lunch or dinner here.

And I can also remember back in, probably about 1977, when I was a rookie, corporate public relations employee at the now defunct, long defunct, Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company, that I was asked one day by my boss, Jerry Buldak, who some of you may know. And by the way, he was one of my great mentors, there was something that needed to get to Roger Anderson, the Chairman of the Board, very urgently.

He was at a luncheon meeting here at the Union League Club. And so, I was asked if I would take this envelope to him. So, walked down the street. Our offices were just at Wells and Jackson. Walked down the street and just blithely walked in the front door, and I was met by a concierge who said to me, excuse me, madam, you must use the women’s entrance, and I said, but I’m here to deliver something to the chairman of the bank.

And he said, madam, I will show you to the lady’s lounge where you can wait while I deliver the message for you. So, Betsy was one of the first people who came here as a member, when membership was open to women, and who really participated, and the progress that the club has made.

So, both because Betsy was a special friend and also because of what she did.


She was probably the most important mentor I could have had in my entire career. Thank you all very much. This is a real honor and I am so grateful to be in the presence of all of you who I know are mentors and the people you have mentored will pay it forward. I’m sure of that.

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