Nov. 18, 2010 — LINCOLN — There is a quote on the wall outside of Ruth Brown's office in Anderson Hall on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.
"Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief." Leo Burnett
Ruth Brown, Ph.D., Associate Professor with the College of Journalism and Mass Communications has impacted many minds throughout her career in the communications field. On November 18, 2010, IABC-Lincoln will honor this humble but dynamic woman with the Leader in Communication Award at a noon luncheon to be held at Chez Hay in Lincoln.
Brown recalls the beginnings of her journalism career well. "I remember taking a picture in front of the Chicago Tribune as a young journalism student . . . and then ending up in Brookings, South Dakota."
Brown may have not started her journalism career in the "Windy City;" however, she did jump into her work at the Brookings Register with gusto and began demonstrating her talents covering news. The semi-weekly newspaper soon rewarded her hard work and what began as a part-time position, soon turned into a fulltime position as News Editor, a great opportunity for a young woman just out of college in the late 1960s with her degrees in Journalism and English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
However, about the newspaper business, she said with a smile, "the smell of ink got to me . . . and my husband said that I was taking more Excedrin than my paycheck covered."
Eventually, Brown would generate her greatest career influence in the collegiate arena where she continues to inspire young minds going out into the diverse communications field. At both the University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska — Lincoln, Brown has had a profound impact on the communication programs. Her direction of the UNK communication department's advertising emphasis made it a top draw for students. Most recently, she is putting classes online and helping in the development of NU's Online Worldwide Advertising and Public Relations masters degree.
"I know Ruth best as a teacher," said Charlyne Berens, Professor and Associate Dean at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. "She really cares about students and gives them all she's got, both in the classroom and outside it. She fits right in with the student-centered culture of this place, and we are lucky to have her on our faculty."
"Dr. Brown's leadership and passion for her profession are inspiring," said Christy Rasmussen, Coordinator at Saint Elizabeth Foundation and a former student. "Ruth has a gift for helping others identify their talents. She has inspired countless people to become professional communicators. Her role as a trusted advisor and a mentor has never ended for me."
Brown recalled many memories throughout her years working with students. She has always tried to find ways to give them the most opportunities possible, such as selling Barn Candles to raise enough money to go to conferences like "Meet the Pros" and to go on field trips to big agencies in large cities, like Leo Burnett in Chicago. She has also nominated her top-notch students for experiences offered by the American Ad Federation and had them selected for internships in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas. She herself was selected Outstanding Professor of the Year by The Order of Omega Honor Society at UNK in 2005, based on a nomination by one of her students.
The core of her classroom philosophy is the basics, "I always tell my students the principles never change. Academics are about teaching those principles. You have to know the rules before you can break the rules."
Brown eventually left UNK and came to UNL for another opportunity, and Keith Terry, UNK professor and former chair of the Communication Department says, "We certainly miss Ruth Brown at UNK. She helped build some very strong programs here."
"Her students praise her careful advising in addition to her fine teaching. Ruth works tirelessly to help each of her students find their place in the world of communications," said Amy Struthers, Sequence Head and Associate Professor of Advertising at UNL. "She is an inspiration to her colleagues as well, bringing a thoughtful and informed perspective to our work and serving as a role model for those of us who aspire to attain her level of expertise."
"Ruth's hard work and leadership are models for her colleagues at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication and across the state. We're pleased her work is being recognized by this honor," said Gary Kebbel, Dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Brown's level of expertise never ceases to grow in reach either. Her dissertation: "The Process of Community Building in Distance Learning Classes," has been cited by nearly 300 researchers in the field.
Her son, Nathan Brown, who is an analyst for the Department of Defense, commented on his mother's ability to stay ahead of the times. "I didn't really understand her dissertation topic when she wrote it, so I kind of 'yawned' it off, assuming it was an esoteric issue. Actually, it's part of a big, big deal. We all realize now the internet's effects not only eroding traditional social relations, but also creating opportunities for new modes of interaction. She was on the leading edge of the field and had these thoughts more than a decade ago. It has just taken me that long to catch up with my mom."
From News Editor to college professor, Brown is adamant that all the relationships she has developed and experiences she has had, regardless of the time in her career, have been valuable. She has appreciated working with KRVN, where her husband, Eric, is General Manager. She also enjoys her three adult children and three grandchildren, but they have to share her time with students and Nebraska Press Women, for which she is president.
Brown does not plan on "slowing down" her communication efforts. She said that it is exciting to keep up with new media and to show students how to use new media strategically. Always the forward thinker, Brown said, "Traditional media needs to learn even more how to incorporate new media into their current way of operating. We need to see new media as a compliment instead of a competitor."
Award winners from previous years include: Sen. Bob Kerrey, Ken Siemek, Cindy Lange-Kubick, Norm Krivosha, Tom Rath, Mary Pipher, Terri Teuber, Robert Spire, Ted Kooser, U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel and Dave Landis.
Writer: Kerry Hoffschneider, IABC-Lincoln Public Relations Director