Speech: Dr. Lynne Sallot, 2014 Educator Honoree

Neil Hirsch: Good evening, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m Neil Hirsch, I’m a corporate communicator, PRSA Georgia President, a huge beneficiary of mentor relationships, and an even bigger advocate for mentoring. But perhaps most proud this evening, to be a former student, mentee, and friend of Dr. Lynne Sallot, APR, Fellow PRSA, this year’s Bruce K Berger Educator Award winner.

Lynne’s bio is an impressive one. I did some math the other day. She’s been teaching public relations for more than 25 years. If she teaches roughly 125 students per year in undergraduate and graduate courses, that means she’s had more than 3,500 students sit in her classroom since 1987.

Beyond her impressive research and commitment to advancing the profession, she’s touched a lot of lives. My 15-year friendship with Lynne began in earnest when I was a junior PR major at Grady College at the University of Georgia. I certainly had direction but I was feeling a little lost, I was just a number in a huge university system.

I was concerned I might never find my home as a student. That changed when I met Lynne. She was probably the toughest teacher I ever had at UGA. Her expectations of her students were incredibly high, but her commitment to her students was even higher. However, what I learned from Lynne in the classroom was only one small fragment of the lessons that she’s taught me over the years.

To this day, Lynne is an advisor, career counselor, therapist, connector, cheerleader, and advocate. In fact, this morning we flew here together from Atlanta, I sat down, we were exchanging pleasantries and within about 90 seconds, she wants to know how’s work, how’s career, what’s next, what’s happening and we had a good chat.

So, to say the least, I’m an official card-carrying member of the Lynne Sallot fan club. But you don’t have to take just my word for it. I did a little bit of research, as she will be very proud of me for doing.

A former doctoral student and colleague at Grady calls Lynne the perfect professor, who taught her the depths of public relations theory and how to trust yourself as a teacher. But perhaps the most important gift Lynne gave her was confidence in her ability to transition from student to faculty seamlessly.

Lynne’s department chair says she’s tough, thorough and has the highest standards. She makes him want to be a better teacher. A former master’s thesis student of Lynne’s said she was incredibly supportive and determined to see her flourish to very challenging times and that coming to her class was like going to work.

Many companies, agencies and organizations across the globe are reaping the fruits of Lynne’s efforts because after all, they’ve hired her students. And finally, a former undergraduate student says that Lynne is the reason she’s a PR pro today. Until she entered her classroom, she was a magazine’s major. That was until she experienced Lynne’s passion for this thing that we call PR.

She changed her major that very day and continues to emulate Lynne’s commitment to advancing the profession through mentoring young professionals and students.

When Lynne asked me if I would be here this evening to introduce her, I was incredibly touched, I’m one of 3,500 people she could have asked at least.

So, Lynne thank you for inviting me to be here tonight. But really I represent all the people who have benefited from your generosity, insight and compassion over the years. I’m part of a special society of Lynne’s mentees out there in the world who are better off because of our membership in this ever-growing group.

So congratulations on this much-deserved honor, Lynne.


LYNNE SALLOT: Thank you so much, Neil. I guess everybody can see why I invited him to introduce me. Neil, not only do you do your company proud, the Grady College at the University of Georgia proud, the Georgia chapter of PRSA proud but you really knocked it out of the ballpark tonight for me. Thank you so much.

It is such a great honor to receive this award, first of all, I want to thank The Plank Center, the board. I want to thank my colleagues, Dr. Bryan Reber who sits on the board and Juan Meng who came from Athens, Georgia to be with us tonight.

I want to thank my professional friends who are here tonight Mickey Nall and Gary McCormick. And I want to say that getting this award, following Judy Turk, is a tough act to follow. I also want to say that Dean Cully Clarke, who was, just retired from the Grady College a few years ago, was the first one to receive this award.

I want to also thank Cully for the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. Any award that has the name of Bruce Berger attached to it is a very great honor for an educator indeed. Thank you so much, Bruce, for your legacy and everything that you have done to advance public relations education.

Most of all, I want to thank Betsy Plank. I not only had the opportunity to know Betsy, but I had the privilege of being mentored by Betsy. I met Betsy when I started advising PRSSA chapters at the University of Florida when I was a Ph.D. student and then in 1993 when I joined the faculty at the University of Georgia.

And I was encouraged by Betsy to get more involved with education at a national level through PRSA. I got to serve with Betsy on the educational affairs committee and she also helped me with a couple of sticky points when I was editing the second and third editions of Learning to Teach that Judy Turk actually edited the first edition.

I was forever grateful to Betsy for being such a great mentor to me and to so many other people. I think where Betsy and I really met though, was that for Betsy it was always all about the students. And I try real hard to live up to that, too.

For me, it’s all about the students. And I just want to say thank you to Betsy Plank. She just keeps on giving to all of us, thank you so much.


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