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Eye on the Ebeling PR-ize
CHUCK EBELING ’66 relishes his career as a communicator. The retired McDonald’s vice president, creator of McDonald’s Global Media Center, and communications advisor to every McDonald’s CEO, including founder Ray Kroc, Ebeling believes the “field of public relations should be called the field of public relationships.”
Indeed, Ebeling is adept at establishing relationships with everyone he meets. He has an incredible array of professional contacts and is involved with the Chicago Literary Club and in conservation issues. His quick wit, years of eclectic experiences, and his ability to craft engaging stories make Ebeling a favorite mentor of Bradley public relations majors. Involved with the Department of Communication for more than a decade, Ebeling’s desire to inspire Bradley’s PR students led him to fund the Ebeling PR-ize, a competitive, trademarked program that completes its initial five-year cycle this fall. Winning campaign team members each receive a $500 check and a letter of recommendation from Ebeling, and they attend a luncheon in their honor.
“If I hired a local communications firm to design and implement any one of these award-winning PR programs, it might cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000,” says Ebeling, whose service as a public affairs officer in the Army steered him into PR instead of a career in journalism. “The program has evolved over the years into a marvelous outreach from Bradley to the Peoria community for pro bono consulting for more than 40 local businesses and nonprofit organizations.”
According to Dr. Jeff Huberman, dean of the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, “The genius of the PR-ize, as conceived by Chuck and professors Ron Koperski and Mike Thurwanger, is that it challenges seniors in the COM 480 capstone course to find a public relations strategy between two unlikely partners.”
More than 40 teams have risen to the challenge over the past nine semesters. As Ebeling proudly notes, the competition has “set a wonderful example for the students that you can do good and do well in the world at the same time.” Team goals involved raising money for a cause and publicizing a benefit event for a nonprofit organization. For example, the 2008 spring semester winning team brought together Children’s Hospital of Illinois with Rocking C Day Camp and Stables in Brimfield. The seniors planned and executed a successful campaign, “Kids Helping Kids — Saddle Up and Donate,” which included a fund-raising event at the stable, with all proceeds targeted for the hospital. A selection committee judged five team campaigns.
“Our main goal was to attract the attention of children and help them realize that giving to charity is important,” says MEGAN WEINSTEIN ’08. “We wanted children to know they are never too young to make a difference. We raised more than $2,000 that day. Many of the children also donated crafts and handmade greeting cards they had made at the event to Children’s Hospital. We are proud of the work we did and the relationships we formed.”
The team liaison at Children’s Hospital was ERIN DURBIN ’97 MA ’05, program coordinator in the advocacy department. “The students were excited that their generous gift will purchase items for our activity room and classroom for children who are required to stay long periods of time at the hospital.”
Ebeling boasts that the public relations faculty has developed one of the most creative senior programs in the country. “I have lectured at Northwestern and Loyola in Chicago and at schools as far-ranging as Harvard, but I haven’t seen as great a combination of learning experience, community outreach, case studies, and PR projects as students experience at Bradley University.”
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