BETSY PLANK

Obituary
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PLANK--Betsy, widely known and respected as the "First Lady" of public relations, passed away on May 23, 2010 at age 86. While the term "pioneer" is often loosely used, Betsy was a true trailblazer in the field of public relations. She was the first woman to: head a division of Illinois Bell, be elected president of the Publicity Club of Chicago and serve as president of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the world's largest association of public relations professionals and students. During her career, Betsy won countless accolades for her dedication and service to public relations. She is the first person ever to have received three of PRSA's top individual honors: the Gold Anvil Award (1977), the Paul M. Lund Public Service Award (1989) and the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA (2001). Betsy also received the Arthur W. Page Society's Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Institute for Public Relations' Alexander Hamilton Medal for major contributions to the practice of public relations, in 2000. Betsy was widely recognized for her work in the area of public relations education, as well. In 1967, she helped to create the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and in 1987, was co-chair of a national commission to develop guidelines for undergraduate public relations curricula. In 2005, she established the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama, her alma mater. Betsy invested equally in the PRSA Foundation, establishing its first endowed scholarship fund as a reminder to senior industry leaders of the need to leave a legacy benefitting the next generation of practitioners, in whom she so richly invested her time and affections. In 2009, the PRSA Foundation recognized Plank for her generous contribution at its inaugural Paladin Award Dinner in New York City. For Betsy, the Plank Scholarship Fund was a way of creating a lasting service to college students entering her much beloved career. Betsy also was a social activist who participated in the 1965 Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery. Among those organizations with which she was active, Betsy chaired the Illinois Council on Economic Education and the Citizenship Council of Metropolitan Chicago; served on the boards of the United Way, Girl Scouts USA and Girl Scouts of Chicago; and was founder of The Chicago Network, an association of Chicago professional women. Betsy was preceded in death by her husband, the late Sherman V. Rosenfield. According to her wishes, Betsy will be cremated and the internment will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, University of Alabama, Box 870172, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0172 or online at: http://bit.ly/cAo6V8 (designate Plank Fund). The 32,000 professional and student members of PRSA mourn Betsy's passing and will forever remember her contributions to the society and to the profession she loved.

Published in The New York Times on May 26, 2010
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