STARKVILLE, Miss.--Five public relations professionals were inducted into the Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame at a luncheon held recently in the John Grisham Room at Mississippi State's Mitchell Memorial Library.
MSU is the permanent location of the Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame because of the central location within the southern region, as well as the involvement of MSU faculty, said John Forde, MSU communication department head and longtime Southern Public Relations Federation officer.
Jarrod Ravencraft, director of the Public Affairs Division for the Mississippi Department of Transportation and 2010 SPRF president, chaired the Hall of Fame Committee this year. Gary McCormick, director of partnership development at HGTV, served as the keynote speaker.
"We have so many leaders in the organization and the region," Ravencraft said. "The Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame provides us with a way to recognize the many contributions these individuals have made to our profession as a whole and to the many individuals they have mentored along the way."
SPRF is a network of more than 1,500 public relations professionals from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi who share a common interest in the public relations profession. The members represent virtually all sectors of public relations practice and are associated with the Public Relations Council of Alabama, Emerald Coast Public Relations Organization, Public Relations Association of Louisiana or Public Relations Association of Mississippi.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by SPRF and the MSU Department of Communication. New Hall of Fame inductees, along with members inducted in 2012, were honored with the unveiling of a permanent plaque with their names engraved.
"We are so pleased to hold the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Mississippi State," said Caron Blanton, president of SPRF. "We're excited to once again recognize the accomplishments of these leaders, all of whom have had a tremendous impact on the public relations profession, SPRF, the organizations they served in both professional and volunteer capacities, and their communities. MSU is the permanent location for the plaque; so, we think it's appropriate for our members and the inductees to see where their names will be displayed for future generations," she said. Blanton is the director of communications for Mississippi Public Universities.
Blanton said the inductees represent very distinct areas of public relations practice and decades of leadership. The 2013 inductees include:
--Neal W. Cirlot, posthumously. Cirlot of Diamondhead, Miss., retired from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi where he worked as the public relations director for 27 years. In his earlier career, he served in the Coast Guard from 1942-1943 and U.S. Navy from 1943-1945. Cirlot was an active volunteer and a member of numerous civic and public relations organizations, including PRAM and SPRF. Most notably, he pioneered both SPRF and the PRAM Central Chapter, where he was the inaugural chairman for both entities.
--Betsie Gambel of New Orleans, La. Gambel is one of the most respected public relations professionals in the Greater New Orleans area with more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of public relations. She founded her public relations agency, Gambel Communications, in 2009 and has seen the business grow tremendously in just four years. Gambel began her career as an English teacher at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans before realizing her passion for public relations and marketing. She has been recognized by New Orleans CityBusiness as a "Woman of the Year" and named a "Role Model" by both the YWCA and the Young Leadership Council. She also was recognized as a New Orleans Magazine 2013 Woman of Achievement.
--Carol A. Mann, of Mobile, Ala. Mann is an accredited public relations professional and has been a member of SPRF and PRCA since 1987. She is a past president of SPRF, PRCA and the PRCA-Mobile Chapter. Mann considers her time as SPRF's representative on the Universal Accreditation Board from 2001-2004 to be her most significant contribution to SPRF and her greatest opportunity as a professional. The UAB is the governing body of the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations. She is a recipient of the SPRF Professional Achievement Award and the PRCA Philip R. Forrest Jr. Practitioner of the Year Award. Last year, she received PRCA's Grover C. Smith Lifetime Achievement Award, the organization's highest award honoring distinguished service to the profession and to PRCA.
--Charles "Chuck" Saucier, posthumously. Saucier, of Alexandria, La., served as president of SPRF in 1994, is a founding member of the PRAL Central Chapter and mentored many future public relations practitioners throughout his career. During his 20-year military career, he was a Public Affairs Officer in the Air Force before beginning a second 20-year career in higher education at Louisiana State University in Alexandria. He volunteered for many community organizations and served in every leadership role for PRAL Central and SPRF. He passed away after an 11-month battle with cancer in 2011.
--John Wittig of Hoover, Ala. Wittig has been a valued member of the Department of Communications Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham since 1981. He also directs the department's public relations program. He is an acclaimed scholar, lecturer and author who has published numerous books and journal articles in the fields of communication studies and public relations. Wittig has served on a multitude of university committees and received numerous awards for his work, including the Practitioner of the Year Award by PRCA and the Communications Award by the Birmingham Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. In 1990, the student chapter of PRCA was renamed as the John W. Wittig Chapter in recognition of his leadership. He earned his APR in 1991. During his tenure at UAB, the school's chapter of PRCA/PRSSA has won PRCA's Alabama Student Chapter of the Year more than 20 times in the last 25 years.
For more information about the Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame, visit www.sprf.org/awards/hall-of-fame. For more information about Mississippi State University, see www.msstate.edu/.