The Plank Center Welcomes Gary Grates and Jennifer Lowney to Advisory Board

Board of Advisors meets virtually, reaffirms commitment to supporting PR students, educators and practitioners through digital content

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations has announced the addition of two new trustees to its Board of Advisors: Gary F. Grates, principal at W20 Group, and Jennifer Lowney, head of corporate communications for Citi.

Grates, a veteran of both the corporate and agency public relations fields, joins the board with more than 25 years of communications, branding and executive communication experience. In addition to his current role at W20 Group in New York, Grates’ background includes stops at Edelman, where he launched the firm’s Change and Employee Engagement Practice, and General Motors, where he served as Vice President of Corporate Communications, North America.

“The Plank Center reflects the ideals and values of the profession beginning with its respected, highly professional Board,” Grates said. “I’m truly honored and humbled to continue the legacy and purpose of this noted institution driving change, championing diversity and inclusion, and mentoring the next generation of leaders.”  

Lowney brings more than 20 years of communications experience with Citi, Brunswick Group and Hill+Knowlton Strategies to the Plank Center, with specialties in IPOs, reorganizations/ bankruptcies and mergers and acquisitions. Over the course of Lowney’s career, she has provided strategic counsel to a broad range of corporations, including Visa, Facebook and Hilton Worldwide. Her current role with Citi involves overseeing the corporate communications team, teams in Japan and Canada, as well as the social media team. Lowney also serves as a principal spokesperson for Citi.

“I have always placed an emphasis on taking action to make our profession more diverse. The Plank Center has had a longstanding focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of our field,” Lowney said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with my fellow trustees in accomplishing this important goal.”

“We’re thrilled to have Jen and Gary join our board,” said Plank Center Chair Keith Burton. “They represent the best of what our advisors bring through their service – a passion for our profession, a deep devotion to leadership and mentoring the next generation of leaders.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Advisors met virtually from separate locations. The members strategized steps the Center can take to remain steadfast in its mission by continuing to provide resources, content and thought leadership for the public relations industry. The Center recently announced two new online webinar series meant to address current industry topics in a digital setting, “Plank Summer Sessions” and “Elevating Black Voices in PR Leadership.”


About The Plank Center

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource working to support students, educators and practitioners who are passionate about the public relations profession. Founded at The University of Alabama in 2005, the Center is named in honor of Betsy Plank, the “First Lady of PR.” Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit and follow our social media channels (@PlankCenterPR).

Contact Information

Will Bradley (The Plank Center): 770-366-7349;