The Plank Center is named for Betsy Plank, a 1944 graduate of the University of Alabama (UA), who attained national and international stature during a distinguished career in corporate and agency public relations.
Often referred to in the U.S. as the “first lady” of public relations, she was the first woman to head a division of Illinois Bell, now Ameritech, and the first woman to preside over the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She also was a founding member of PRSA’s College of Fellows, an honorary group of national leaders in public relations.
Plank received numerous awards during her lifetime for her contributions to public relations, including:
- PRSA’s Gold Anvil, as the nation’s outstanding professional,
- PRSA’s Lund Award for civic and community service,
- The Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.
Plank was a long-time supporter and advocate for public relations students and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has named its annual scholarships for her. She was a pioneer in public relations education, having co-chaired the 1987 national commission to develop guidelines for the undergraduate public relations curriculum, served on accrediting teams at many universities, and spoken to numerous student groups and public relations classes.
Plank was Chair of the Center’s advisory board until her death in May 2010.