PR education philanthropy continues in recession

NEW YORK: Philanthropic support for public relations education has continued over the past four years despite the economic recession, according to a report from the Commission on Public Relations.

NEW YORK: Philanthropic support for public relations education has continued over the past four years despite the economic recession, according to a report from the Commission on Public Relations.

The “Philanthropy for Public Relations: 2010 Follow-Up Study” was written by Kathleen Kelly, a professor in the department of public relations at the University of Florida. It updates research published in 2006 and measures the extent and amount of philanthropy directed to US based PR education.

The study found support for PR education has reached at least $15 million and it documented 64 major gifts ranging from $10,000 to $2 million.

Frank Ovaitt, EVP for Makovsky and Company and co-chair on the Commission on PR Education, attributed the growth to the fact that the endowments were already coming together before the economic downturn.

“These gifts are big steps forward. We need that in PR and we need that to get respect for the industry and for PR education,” Ovaitt said. "The industry is benefitting already from the caliber of students that are coming out.”

He added that the continuation of funding will only allow for the strong programs that already exist to continue.

The report cited a $2 million gift from the Trellis Fund, which established the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, and an effort led by Scott Widmeyer, chairman and CEO of Widmeyer Communications, to endow the Widmeyer Professorship in Public Relations at West Virginia University in 2008 with contributions totaling $380,000 as some of the major philanthropy efforts in recent years.

The most popular purpose of philanthropy is undergraduate scholarships though, Kelly noted in the report.

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