Plank Center Leaders Honored by Ball State University

Mar 29, 2022

Two of the University of Alabama’s – and the industry’s – preeminent experts in public relations are being honored this week at the 2022 Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship at Ball State University’s School of Journalism and Strategic Communication in Muncie, Indiana.

Dr. Karla Gower, director of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama is keynote and Dr. Bruce Berger, founding director and professor emeritus of the Plank Center, will receive the National Public Relationships Achievement Award. The in-person event is set for 7:30 p.m. March 30 at Ball State’s L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ball Room. It is open to the public.

Founded in 1979, the Vernon C. Schranz Distinguished Lectureship in Public Relations is the nation’s longest running public relations lectureship and has brought some of the most prominent public relations leaders to campus. Speakers provide insight into public relations trends and create a forum for new ideas among Indiana’s public relations practitioners, faculty and students.

The Ball Corp., located at the time in Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball State University, started the series in 1979 in honor of Schranz, the company’s first public relations officer and an advocate for higher education.

Schranz often shared his expertise with students and endowed an undergraduate public relations scholarship through a gift of Ball Corporation stock. The lectureship has built a reputation for providing content necessary for the growth and development of the public relations field. It offers an examination of the developing status of the public relations profession and creates a forum for the expression of new ideas and concepts. It serves as a professional development opportunity for Indiana public relations practitioners, faculty and students.

Dr. Bruce Berger

Dr. Berger, an author of two books, has focused his research on public relations leadership, employee communications and public policy influence.

Before entering academia, Dr. Berger was a PR professional and executive for 20 years. He worked at the (then) Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical research and manufacturing company, serving as manager of Public Affairs, based in Brussels, Belgium, and subsequently as director of Worldwide Human Health Public Relations. In 1989, he became the corporate Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Whirlpool Corp. and president of the Whirlpool Foundation.

Dr. Karla Gower

Dr. Gower has authored three books and co-authored another. She is the Behringer Distinguished Professor in the Advertising and Public Relations Department of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. She has served as director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations since 2008, when Dr. Berger retired.

She practiced law in Canada for eight years before moving to Arizona in 1992 to attend Arizona State. She worked in public relations at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona, during the Clinton administration’s attempts at health care reform, in internal communications and media relations at GateWay Community College and was part of a three-member team of writers in the Office of University Development at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.