Penn State opens center to up PR's ethics, quality

STATE COLLEGE, PA: Penn State University has opened an academic research center dedicated to improving the quality and ethics of the PR profession.

STATE COLLEGE, PA: Penn State University has opened an academic research center dedicated to improving the quality and ethics of the PR profession.

The Arthur W. Page Center, named for the man who codified the essential principles of PR, is the brainchild of retired corporate communicators Edward Block (former SVP of PR at AT&T), John Koten (former SVP of corporate communications at Ameritech), and Larry Foster (former VP of PR at Johnson & Johnson).

Foster, a Penn State graduate who is most famous for handling Johnson & Johnson's PR during the Tylenol crisis back in the early 1980s, donated $300,000 for the center's initial funding, as well as for the creation of grants for academic researchers across the country.

"[The center is] going to be a resource for all universities," Foster said. "Everything that it produces will be in the public realm."

John Nichols, Penn State's associate dean for graduate studies and research, is serving as the center's director. He said his current focus is on organizing a grant program, which will give research grants worth between $5,000 and $25,000 to academics whose work promotes the "Page principles," which encourage good corporate citizenship and honesty.

Nichols said that the newly founded center is "already a player" in the communications world. "If you have a center that's giving away free money, people take notice," he said, adding that fund-raising efforts for the new center are currently under development.

The center will work closely with the Arthur W. Page Society, a prestigious industry association, but will function as a separate entity.

Foster said the founding of the center is "one of the most important developments in PR education" in his lifetime.

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