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.