MADISON, WI: The world of PR education lost a legend on August 18 when Scott Cutlip died at the age of 85.
MADISON, WI: The world of PR education lost a legend on August 18
when Scott Cutlip died at the age of 85.
Even though Cutlip had been retired from academia for 15 years, the
speed with which news of his death circulated among former colleagues
and students testifies to his continuing influence.
Some measured Cutlip’s impact through his professional activities and
writings, including the seminal PR text Effective Public Relations -
called ’The Bible’ by many pros and educators. But to others, Cutlip’s
willingness to speak his mind - often in a cutting and succinct manner -
made him a memorable character.
Expected to deliver a 20-minute acceptance speech during his induction
into the Arthur W. Page Hall of Fame, Cutlip announced his topic was too
complex for such a brief talk and then proceeded to delivered a much
lengthier discourse on Page’s contributions to the PR of the US
That desire to educate led Cutlip not only to seek to improve PR, but to
use PR as a means of improving society. ’(PR) was not just to be a
corporate function,’ said Dr. Donald Wright, a one-time colleague of
Cutlip’s at the University of Georgia who is now a professor of
communications at the University of South Alabama. Wright described
Cutlip as ’the sire of public relations education.’
Florida International University associate professor of communications
Bill Adams, a former Cutlip student, recalled how Cutlip would refer to
PR as ’the calling.’ While Adams admitted that it was an unusual way to
describe PR, he said he never questioned it ’because it seemed so
natural for him to say.’ Adams prefers to describe Cutlip as someone who
was ’propagating the faith.’
Adams and others remembered how Cutlip’s tongue could cut like a
switchblade at times. ’He would flat-out tell you how lousy you were,’
Ironically, added Wright, ’Cutlip may gave driven some people away from
PR classes with his harshly straightforward manner.’
But Cutlip wielded a powerful influence over the careers of many of his
students. Adams recalls Cutlip suggesting that he pass up a lucrative
job offer for one that paid less but appeared to be a better fit.
Wrote lengthy and oft-quoted history of PR in the 20th century, The
Wrote Effective Public Relations, the seminal PR text
’The sire of public relations education’ established the structure of
university PR programs.