Replacing Kent State’s Jewell? It’ll take a gem!

When the boss asked me to chair a search committee to replace my soon-to-be-semi-retired colleague Rob Jewell, I just chuckled.

Let’s see. Where will I find a PR professional with 35 years of experience who has counseled Fortune 500 executives from a cushy, but often very hot seat on mahogany row? And where will I find a master strategist who also has proven himself as a teacher in sophomore-level courses and one with the patience to mentor kids who sometimes struggle with misplaced modifiers?

And if we do find this person, how do I convince him or her to work for less than $50K a year?

Rob Jewell, teacher and mentor extraordinaire, will exit the not-so-ivy-covered walls of Kent State at the end of this week. He’s spent 5 years on the PR faculty here and earned teaching evaluations that, well — that I haven’t seen in a decade. But more importantly, Rob took the concept of a student PR firm and made it happen — so much so that CASE recognized Rob and Flash Communications with one if its highest awards.

In 2005-06, Kent State honored Rob with its Outstanding Teaching Award — our highest honor for classroom performance. Inside or outside the classroom, this guy has some serious creds.

Many academic PR programs have student firms — but not like Flash. Most student firms operate from PRSSA chapters and are staffed by volunteers. Most student firms work with small companies and nonprofits.

Flash Communications, operates as an integral part of Kent State’s University Communications & Marketing. Paid staffers (about 10 per semester) work on public relations projects that are essential to the goals and objectives of the institution. They write articles, develop brochure and Web copy, plan events and pitch the media. And they’re effective thanks to the mentoring of Rob Jewell, who has spent half his time overseeing the Flash operation.

Rob isn’t a control freak, nor is is a heavy-handed editor. He lets the students do their work, helping them find the right path but never leading them down one. He allows them to make mistakes, and they learn in the process. He recruits from the full roster of PR majors, not just the stars — and quite a few average performers later became stars, in part as a result of Rob’s policy.

Before joining Kent State, Rob spent a few years as a PR consultant after spending nearly 30 years with the BFGoodrich Company — once one of Akron’s “Big Four” tiremakers. He rose form entry-level grunt to VP of Corporate Communications. But when BFG was sold in the late 90s, Rob decided forgo a transfer south and become a young retiree.

A few years later he retired from his consulting business to take this full-time job at Kent State. Now he’s retiring from Kent State to join the Washington, D.C. foundation, Corporate Voices for Working Families, where he’ll be working from his home and commuting to D.C. as needed.

Do you get the idea he doesn’t understand the concept of retirement?

For an old dog (he’s 5 years my senior), Rob learned a lot of new tricks while at Kent State. Walk in his office today and you’re likely to find him Twittering on his Blackberry or posting to his blog, PR On the Run. Rob writes on a range of PR topics, most of which occur to him during his daily 5 a.m., 5-mile runs.

Nope. This guy’s not getting old at all, though I won’t speak for his hamstrings.

There’s no easy way to sum up this post. We’re gonna miss Rob Jewell a lot. While he leaves the proverbial “big shoes” to fill, he also leaves a solid foundation for his successor to build upon. He is leaving Kent State a better place than it was when he arrived. Not everyone can say that.

Join the PRKent faithful at Ray’s Place this Friday, May 9, at 5:30. We’ll all raise a glass to Rob as he retires one more time.

4 Responses to Replacing Kent State’s Jewell? It’ll take a gem!

  1. Rob Jewell says:

    Bill,

    I’m somewhat reluctant to comment here. But I really do appreciate your comments very much. I’ve had a great time the last five years. I’ve had the opportunity to do something that I believe is important: teach. I’ve enjoyed being with students in the classroom and on the job. Watching them prepare for careers — and then succeeding — is exciting and rewarding. And getting to know you better has been an added plus.

    And you never know. Maybe in a few years I’ll be invited back to Kent State as “blogger in residence.”

    Rob

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Geez, Rob. You could come back as Lefton’s ghost blogger! Whatdaya think? You could help him connect to his core constituencies. Ah, the fine art of listening. Think of the possibilities!

    I am glad you posted a comment. I think my “blog vacation” plan drove folks away from the site. Maybe returning early wasn’t such a good idea, but I couldn’t let your “retirement” pass without weighing in. We’ll miss you, dude.

  3. tastyburger says:

    Bill-

    What a great article; sometimes the best way to pay tribute to someone is to simply say how much they mean to the people around them.

    That being said, I’ll share a quick Rob story that still influences me today.

    As a green PR junior preparing to look for my first internship I sent out roughly 10 letters and resumes (prior to doing this through e-mail). I got one call back. Yep, you guessed it – Rob Jewell while at BFG wrote to tell me they weren’t pursuing the intern program that year (the next year he left for his own company).

    Since then I have been fortunate to know Rob through Kent functions and PRSA; I probably don’t draw on his vast background enough. However, I always return emails, phone calls, etc. After all, they aren’t a senior level person, or a entry level candidate or even an intern possibility – they’re a person.

    Thanks Rob and good luck!

    -Ben

  4. Beth Basch says:

    Bill –

    Great story. I’m glad I was able to be a part of the program while Rob was there. Wish I could make it back to Ray’s tomorrow for a drink with you guys!

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