OP-ED: Penn State Page Center will benefit PR students and pros

PRWeek readers recently found out about the new Arthur W. Page Center at the Penn State College of Communications (PRWeek, October 25).

PRWeek readers recently found out about the new Arthur W. Page Center at the Penn State College of Communications (PRWeek, October 25).

To elaborate further on the benefits of establishing this innovative center, we would like to address the following three questions: Why Page? Why Penn State? Why is it important? Beginning 23 years ago, we were privileged to join with other like-minded PR executives in creating the Arthur W. Page Society, which had its origins within AT&T. Today, with more than 300 senior executives as members, the Page Society holds a place of distinction within the PR profession. Page is widely regarded as the founder of the modern practice of corporate PR. Page was the first senior officer and director of a major corporation (AT&T from 1927 to 1946) to hold these responsibilities. His vision of how a company should conduct itself with its various stakeholders and of the importance of PR earned him recognition as a wise and effective counselor. His philosophy was expressed in what came to be known as the Page Principles: tell the truth; prove it with action; listen to the customer; manage for the long term; and a company's true character is expressed by its people. We sought a means to preserve the Page legacy and to promote his insightful approach to corporate communications and effective relationship building, and felt an academic setting offered the best opportunity to accomplish this for the benefit of future generations of students, practitioners, and scholars. Selecting a highly regarded university became our mission. Penn State's College of Communications proved to be the logical choice. The school's energetic and talented dean is rapidly gaining recognition for new and creative programs. One of us (Foster) has had a long-standing relationship with the school. Our proposal to form the center wasn't only welcomed, but significantly enriched by fresh program ideas. A generous allocation of space was made available for the Page Center within the building that houses the communications school. At Penn State, we have obviously found a visionary and enthusiastic partner. All participants agree on this important point. The center will be an active learning source for students and professionals, not merely a passive repository of Page's papers and other materials that elaborate his philosophy. The center will aspire to become a contemporary international resource for down-to-earth information freely available to students and business people no matter where in the world they live and work. Our aim is to help others benefit from his lessons of yesterday so they are better able to meet tomorrow's challenges in communications. We see the Page Center as a lighthouse for those students and practitioners interested in demonstrating and articulating the highest standards of communication and ethical behavior in business, as well as other institutions. It will be a primary source for everyone seeking ideas or inspiration about how to improve the reputation of business. This means reaching out beyond Page to include the thinking and wisdom of his many contemporary disciples by preserving their concepts in an interactive audio-visual format. While Page literally wrote the book on fundamental policies that must always guide corporate communications, he also demonstrated the importance of counseling in shaping decisions of management with respect to corporate governance. Bringing PR pros closer to the decision-making process is a goal we firmly believe is achievable. The three of us had the good fortune to report directly to the CEOs of our companies. We know the critical importance of picking the right person for the job. In his selection of John Nichols, associate dean for graduate studies and research, to head the Page Center, we believe Dean Anderson has made an inspired decision. After meeting with professor Nichols and hearing his vision and enthusiasm for the opportunities presented by the center, we were certain he was right for the job. He described the mission he visualized for the center thus: "The Page Center [will seek] to foster a modern understanding and application of the Page Principles by supporting innovative research, education, and public- service projects in a wide variety of academic disciplines and professional fields. The centerpiece will be the awarding of Page Legacy Scholar Grants to those making important contributions to advancing ethics and responsibility in public communication."
  • Co-written by Larry Foster, retired corporate VP of PR at Johnson & Johnson; Ed Block, retired SVP of PR at AT&T; and Jack Koten, retired SVP of corporate communications at Ameritech.

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