Spotlight: What's In A Name?
By Lauren Cuervo
It's Gonzenbach, not Gozenbach or Gonzebach. And every public relations major at The University of Alabama should know it because it is the answer to the very first test question in his introductory course.
Dr. William Gonzenbach, a public relations professor and former chairman of the department, puts great emphasis on such careful details in his teachings.
"We have lots of kids who come in here and think they can easily get a PR degree without caring about the field, but you can't," Gonzenbach said. "You have to show up and you have to give a damn."
Interest in the public relations field began for Gonzenbach, who enjoyed writing but didn't want to work for the media, as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame. After graduating from Notre Dame, he began his 20 year professional career in the field, working in Indiana and then North Carolina with clients such as the Business Council of Alabama, AT&T, Time Warner’s Southern Living and Vermeer Manufacturing.
After many years in the business, Gonzenbach decided to return to school and receive his master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While studying, he also began to teach a class at East Carolina University and enjoyed it so much he decided to pursue his doctoral degree in order to teach full time.
He had found his true calling.
"I love teaching and really enjoy getting up every morning to do what I do," Gonzenbach said. "It just wasn’t as true for me in the business world; I didn't have the same kind of passion for it."
After receiving his doctorate, Gonzenbach interviewed for full-time teaching positions at UA, the University of Florida, Northwestern University and the University of Indiana, but Alabama proved to be everything he was looking for.
"It was exciting here and everything I wanted; they had just built the new communications center and had a great program going, plus I love the south and was sick of being up north."
Gonzenbach went on to serve as a chairman for the advertising and public relations department for seven years and is very humble about what he accomplished during that time.
"I don’t know about having a big impact, but I think the greatest thing I ever did for the department was promise everyone they would get an air conditioning unit in their office," Gonzenbach said.
Two other major impacts on the department have been his recruiting skills and movement to get Alabama's public relations program certified with the Public Relations Society of America. Something he did must have worked- Alabama's program has been named one of the top five in the country the past three years by PR Weekly and its students continue to thrive in the field all over the country.
"He’s tough, but great," said Alabama public relations graduate Van Diehl. "He just wants kids to take PR seriously and you can tell he’s so passionate about what he's doing."
Now teaching is Gonzenbach's main focus; well, that and riding his Harley. "I had heart problems about 13 years ago that almost killed me and made me realize we only live once so I might as well enjoy it."
Lauren Cuervo is a Public Relations major with the College of Communication and Informatio Sciences.