Today, I officially say goodbye and good luck to my friend and colleague, Bob Batchelor, who announced his resignation from Kent State effective August 25th. Bob was, by far, the most effective teacher/scholar I’ve worked with in my 21 years here, so losing him is a severe blow to the program — and to me personally. But it’s a great move for Bob, and I’m elated for him.
Bob has accepted the position as the James Pedas Professor of Communications and Executive Director of the James Pedas Communication Center at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa. This is a new endowed chair and an appointment too prestigious to pass up. It also comes with a brand new $6.5-million facility.
Readers of this space know Bob as the creator and chief academic officer behind Kent State’s Online PR Master’s. The program — based entirely on pedagogy Bob designed — became an overnight success for Kent State and home to 300+ graduate students since its launch in 2011. Under Bob’s guidance, the Online PR Master’s exceeded every objective set by administration and earned consistent 5-star reviews from students.
Bob is a rare species in academe, a teacher/scholar/visionary who also has a decade of real-world experience in journalism and public relations. Before he headed off to earn his doctorate at USF, Bob had risen to VP of corporate communications at Bank of America in San Francisco. Before that, he labored in the PR trenches with Fleishman Hillard.
During his time as instructor and grad student at USF, Bob began to produce scholarship that surpassed that of his tenure-track colleagues. He wasn’t required to “publish or perish” in those days. He just loved doing it. A few weeks back, he began work on his 25th book (authored, co-authored or edited). For most folks in academe, that’s two lifetimes worth of work. For Bob, it took less than a decade.
Bob’s departure leaves me as the lone academic member of the Online PR Master’s Team. Professor Gene Sasso, our chief program strategist, was dismissed from the program earlier this semester — a decision that baffled us all — and many of you. And need I mention the nonsensical financial model that drove this thriving program hopelessly into red ink overnight? Well, I guess I just did
I’m not here today to question the missteps of administration. That’s a book in itself. But I can’t help but wonder if a more reasoned and long-term approach to our Online PR Master’s might have kept my friend here at Kent State.
The PR Online Master’s program Bob created will live on, and I hope with continued success. I’m not going anywhere, and I’ve learned enough from Bob and from Gene to pick up where they’re leaving off — should anyone ask me to do so.
We can’t expect to replace the intellectual firepower Bob Batchelor brought to our program. But we’ll have to try. Best wishes to my friend and colleague. And let me add that I’m more than a little envious over his return to Steeler Country!