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College of Media hosts inaugural WV PRSA Hall of Fame ceremony

WV PRSA Hall of Fame Ceremony

A group of WVU Reed College of Media students planned and executed the first annual West Virginia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s Hall of Fame ceremony, which was held at the Media Innovation Center on November 16. Four public relations professionals, including two alumni of the Media College, were inducted during this hybrid event.

At the start of the fall 2021 semester, Teaching Associate Professor Elizabeth Oppe saw an opportunity to engage her capstone students in a real event planning project that would also connect them with some of the state’s leading public relations professionals, including inductees Joe Gollehon (BSJ, 1973), Cathryn Harris, Charles Ryan (BSJ, 1962) and Diane Slaughter.

“These are the types of projects that set our students apart and put them in front of people who can be mentors,” Oppe said. “I hope this experience not only offered important lessons in event management, but also opened doors for these incredible students so that they find fulfilling careers once they leave us.”

Advertising and Public Relations seniors Jillian Bartel, Brandy Hernandez, Hannah Lutz, Cheyenne Pauley, Emily Radano and Madison Wingate met with WV PRSA Hall of Fame chair Joe Long and interviewed for positions on the team including account executive, event manager, client communication, technical operations and digital and social media manager.

College of Media students

Public Relations students Emily Radano, Brandy Hernandez, Hannah Lutz, Madison Wingate, Jillian Bartel and Cheyenne Pauley were part of the capstone team who successfully planned and managed the West Virginia Public Relations Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Once the team was set, they had six weeks to coordinate event promotion, registration and logistics, which included communicating with inductees, navigating technical aspects of a hybrid event where some speakers and guests would be virtual, and preparing a live event space with programs, décor and refreshments.

“We didn’t have a lot of time for planning, but the event was really successful and I’m proud of our team,” Bartel said. “It was also great to gain knowledge about the industry and make connections that will benefit our futures.”

The WV PRSA Hall of Fame recognizes and honors distinguished public relations professionals for their career achievements, significant contributions in the field of public relations, mentoring and exemplary community service. The 2021 inductees have each had careers spanning more than three decades.

WV PRSA Hall of Fame inductees

The 2020-21 WV PRSA Hall of Fame inductees include Joe Gollehon, Cathryn Harris, Diane Slaughter and Charles Ryan (not pictured).

Gollehon spent most of his career as the senior vice president and director of governmental affairs for TSG Consulting, LLC, where he still serves in an advisory capacity. He was accredited by PRSA in 1979 and elected to the PRSA's College of Fellows in 2011. He served as president of WV PRSA from 1984-85 and was honored by that chapter as Practitioner of the Year in 2002.

Harris, a graduate of Marshall University, is a public relations and communications professional based in South Charleston, West Virginia. She is a founding member of WV PRSA and has been an active member for over 40 years. She has served in all chapter positions, including president – she was the third president of the West Virginia chapter and served 1.5 terms.

Ryan’s public relations career spans more than 35 years. He founded Charles Ryan Associates in 1974 after more than 10 years working as a broadcast journalist. He is also the founding dean of the University of Charleston Graduate School of Business and has authored five books. Ryan has more than 30 years of experience in media training, both domestically and internationally.

Slaughter, also a graduate of Marshall University, began her career as the assistant advertising director at The Diamond Department Store in Charleston, West Virginia. When the store was sold in 1983, she began her public relations and association management career with the West Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.  A decade later, she took the opportunity to open her own firm, Homestead Communications.

During the Hall of Fame ceremony, Hunter Bennett, the vice president of external relations for WVU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, announced the creation of the Joe Gollehon Award of Excellence. The award covers the annual membership dues for a WVU public relations student who exemplifies what it means to be an honest, dedicated and hard-working public relations professional.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a ceremony last year, WV PRSA chapter co-founders David Cotton and Bill Chaddock were the 2019-20 inductees. Their names and all future Hall of Fame inductees will be on permanent display in Martin Hall on the WVU campus, which already houses the Hall of Fames for West Virginia Broadcasters Association and the West Virginia Press Association.