Past Presidents Remember Betsy Plank

Following the announcement that Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA, passed away this weekend, the people Betsy inspired, mentored and guided have been posting their memories about the godmother of PRSSA. Among the people Betsy took great pride in were PRSSA National Presidents. Below are a collection of thoughts and memories from PRSSA National Presidents — we hope these memories will inspire you to continue her mission to advance the public relations profession.

Photo courtesy Kara Czerniak, PRSSA 2005 National Conference Coordinator

Kathy Schoch Ziprik, 1980–1981 National President

Small in stature, Betsy Plank has always stood as a giant when promoting public relations education and the necessity of PRSSA. While national president of the organization, I vividly remember her at a Chicago meeting making phone calls in the middle of the night and rallying support to launch the Friends of PRSSA. Her dedication to students is unmatched. She will be missed by many, and forever loved by all.

Cedric L. Bess, 2000–2001 National President

Our profession has lost one of its pioneers with the passing of Betsy Plank. She was a mentor and inspiration to so many of us, especially those who were fortunate enough to work with her during our time in PRSSA. I will fondly remember her passion, spunk and tireless dedication to public relations education. I am forever grateful for having known such a giving professional and an even better human being.

Jeremy Bridgman, 2003–2004 National President

Betsy Plank was a devoted professional, an inspiring friend and a testament to the value of doing good for others. I was fortunate to be one of the many students who have received a Betsy Plank/PRSSA Scholarship, which allows students the freedom and courage to focus on their education. Without Betsy’s tireless work to support public relations students, like the most important Betsy Plank Scholarship Endowment Fund, the future of the profession would not be the limitless sky it is now for the more than 10,000 pre-professionals who join PRSSA each year. I was blessed to work with and get to know Betsy during my tenure as PRSSA President, and I treasure the conversations and the confidence she had in all of us. Said simply: Thank you, Betsy, for the personal and professional opportunities of a lifetime.

Kevin Saghy, 2006–2007 National President

Betsy Plank positively impacted thousands of lives, including many of the titans in our industry, so I am honored to call her a personal friend. Betsy was a mentor who helped shape my life in Chicago. She became a close personal friend, and soon—without much thought—we just referred to each other as family.

My fiancé and I were fortunate to visit Betsy in her home shortly before her passing. During our last conversation, Betsy exclaimed she “just wanted to be an example to those she leaves behind,” referring to her strong faith and resolve through the very last days of her life. I’ll never forget that moment, and I feel compelled to share just how strong and caring she was throughout her lifetime—literally until the day she passed.

Betsy was always concerned with others. She championed education in PR to bring along future generations. She mentored dozens of professionals I know personally, and likely hundreds more I don’t. And just a few days before her passing, Betsy was more concerned about how our mutual friend was doing after surgery, or how my wedding plans were coming along, than her own condition. It’s ironic that her focus on others drove her to be the most individually-recognized woman in the industry. She always cared about others before herself, yet she still came home with the most hardware. There’s certainly a lesson to be learned there.

Betsy didn’t want a funeral or long memorials (there she goes, avoiding attention again). Instead, the best thing we can do to honor Betsy is follow the example she desired to set. For some, her religious faith may be inspiring. For everyone, her work ethic and service to others should be motivating. I think Betsy would be pleased to know that, upon her passing, everyone who knew her (and even people who didn’t) would be inspired to carry on her missions of leadership and education in PR.

I hope as readers will keep Betsy in mind from time to time as they progress in their careers. When a PRSSA Chapter needs a speaker, or an intern or new hire needs a mentor, those who remember Betsy will step up. It was the example she wanted to set.


Brandi Boatner, 2008–2009 National President

Betsy Plank was a legend. Betsy Plank was a pioneer. Betsy Plank was a fighter for what she believed in. But at the end of the day, Betsy Plank was a phenomenal woman. Betsy touched my life as I mentor, colleague and as a dear friend. Many of my professional development decisions were directly affected by her influence and invaluable advice. I will miss her so much and my heart is broken at the moment.  Time will heal my wounds and I will keep Betsy’s legacy alive and give back to others what she gave to me. Wisdom and love for this profession.

Rebecca Timms, 2009–2010 National President

Betsy was a role model in every sense of the term. Not only did she pioneer the way for women in our field, but also led her life in total humility, an astounding feat for someone of her professional stature. The sincerity of her words and gestures, constant generosity and entertaining wit are all traits I take with me through everyday life. I know these feelings aren’t mine alone — Betsy truly does live on through the many students, professionals and friends who had the fortune to meet and know her.

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