College of Media Visiting Committee
The Visiting Committee is a group of high-level professionals, alumni and friends who serve in an advisory capacity to the College of Media. Committee members share their expertise, insights and connections with administration, faculty and students to help the College achieve academic excellence and national prominence. Committee members are appointed by the WVU Provost in consultation with the College of Media Dean and typically serve three-year appointments.
FRANK AHRENSWVU, BSME, 1987
Vice President, BGR Public Relations, Washington, D.C.
Frank Ahrens joined BGR Public Relations in January 2014. He uses his many years of experience in Washington and overseas to guide clients through the challenges they face online and in dealing with major media outlets. He is practiced in business and communications customs across cultures.
Before coming to BGR, Ahrens led Hyundai Motor’s global public relations efforts from company headquarters in Seoul. He became a director at Hyundai Motor in 2010 and was promoted to Vice President of Global Corporate Communications two years later. He created the company’s first English-language corporate media site, including a blog and Twitter feed, and helped establish the company’s first public relations operation in the Middle East in Dubai. Ahrens worked closely with Hyundai Motor government affairs offices in Washington and Brussels on breaking and long-range issues including labor, energy and trade. Stories he pitched played prominently in such major media outlets as the Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age and Bloomberg. During Ahrens’ tenure, Hyundai was named “Fastest Growing Brand” by Interbrand in 2011 and 2012.
Ahrens previously worked for 18 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He covered the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 as well as the media and entertainment industries, tracking media policy on the Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission. As an editor, he managed a team of eight reporters with a diverse range of beats. Ahrens appeared frequently as a media industry expert on CNBC, MSNBC, PBS and other networks.
Ahrens attended West Virginia University where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his wife, Rebekah; daughter, Annabelle; and Labrador, Chairman.
SHAWN ANDERSONWVU, BSJ, 1981
Anchor, WTOP, Washington, D.C.
Shawn Anderson co-anchors the afternoon drive-time show for top-rated all-news radio station WTOP in Washington, D.C. WTOP is America’s No. 1 revenue-earning radio station, and is on the cutting-edge of digital news gathering.
Since 1998, Anderson’s show has been one of the highest Arbitron-rated afternoon radio programs in the country. Anderson has contributed to hundreds of national and regional awards earned by WTOP, including RTDNA’s National Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in 2009 and 2011. WTOP also earned NAB Marconi Awards in the News/Talk and Major Market Station of the Year categories in 2012 and the Legendary Station category in 2011.
Anderson co-anchored WTOP’s coverage of the 9/11 terror attacks and the 2002 Beltway sniper murders, among other major national news stories.
Prior to joining WTOP, Anderson twice covered the Olympic Winter Games as a news and sports anchor for the Associated Press Radio Network. As sports director for the Tennessee Radio Network, he was a member of Vanderbilt University’s football and basketball broadcast crew.
Anderson is a native of Mt. Pleasant, Pa., and a WVU graduate. As a student, he worked as a disc jockey and sportscaster at WCLG-FM in Morgantown and as a sports writer for the Preston County Journal in Kingwood. After graduation, he sandwiched a stint in politics between on-air stops in suburban Pittsburgh, Annapolis, Md., and the West Virginia Radio Network.
Anderson lives in College Park, Md., with his wife, Sharon O’Malley, an author, freelance journalist and adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Maryland.
TOM BOYDWVU, BSJ, 1971; Auburn University, MA Public Administration, 1981
Colonel, USAF Retired
Colonel Tom Boyd retired from the Air Force in 2003 with 30 years of active duty service, nearly all in the public affairs field (corporate communications).
He served as director of public affairs for several major commands – Air Force Education and Training Command which directs all Air Force recruiting, training and education; U.S. Forces Japan, a multi-service command for all U.S. military activities in Japan; U.S. Pacific Command, the multi-service command overseeing the Pacific and Asia theater.
Throughout his career, he has had extensive experience dealing with U.S. and international news media and directing crisis communications, strategic communication planning, media training, employee communication, community relations, and organizational management, planning, and budgeting. He’s served as communication counsel to senior military and civilian leaders, including four-star commanders, the Air Force vice chief of staff and chief of staff, and two secretaries of the Air Force.
After retiring from the Air Force, he was asked by the Navy’s Chief of Information to serve as an assistant for professional development and education for the Navy’s public affairs community, which he did for three years, establishing a concentrated master’s degree program in mass communication at San Diego State University.
He was recognized as the top military public affairs officer in 1986 when he received The Aviation Space Writers Association’s “Public Affairs Officer Award” for crisis communication and overall communication management at Clark Air Base, the Philippines.
ROBERT BYERSWVU, BSJ, 1991
Co-Editor, Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail
Rob Byers is a native of Amity, Pa., and a 1991 graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, now the Reed College of Media. Byers began as a reporter with the Charleston Gazette in Charleston, W.Va., two days after his graduation. In the 24 years to follow, he advanced from reporter to assistant city editor, Sunday editor, city editor, and, in August 2011, executive editor. As executive editor, he oversaw all newsgathering functions for West Virginia’s largest newspaper. More recently, Byers helped oversee the combination of Charleston’s two longstanding newspapers – the Gazette and the Daily Mail. Today, he is the co-editor of the combined Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Byers has been the editor on more than a dozen national award-winning Gazette projects.
In early 2014, he was chosen by the International Center for Journalists as one of 10 journalists from across the nation to spend two weeks reporting from Pakistan. He has mentored two Pakistani journalists visiting the U.S. for the first time, in 2013 and 2014.
PETER CHERUKURIColgate University, BA, 1997
Senior Vice President for Advertising and Business Development, Politico
Peter Cherukuri is currently the Senior Vice President for Advertising and Business Development for Politico. Prior to this role, he served as General Manager, Politics, for The Huffington Post and as VP and General Manager for the publication’s Washington, D.C. bureau, overseeing operations and revenue as the innovative news outlet expands in the Washington market.
Prior to HuffPost, Peter was the publisher of Roll Call, overseeing the business and editorial operations for the Capitol Hill newspaper and helping the company diversify via acquisitions into a multiplatform information and advocacy services company.
Additionally, he led marketing and business development efforts for TMG Custom Content, a DC-based agency that develops targeted print and online content for corporations and nonprofits.
He received his start in the political publishing market working at National Journal Group and Congressional Quarterly in product development and branding capacities.
Originally from Mingo County, West Virginia, he received his BA from Colgate University and currently serves on the board for the National Press Foundation.
BETSY KLEBE DZIEDZICWVU, BSJ, 1979
Former Vice President of Corporate Communications, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Klebe Dziedzic is the former Vice President of Corporate Communications at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., where she had global responsibility for media, financial, crisis, employee and marketing communications; reputation management; public relations; brand management; visual communications and communications technology for 14 years until retiring in 2013.
Klebe joined Air Products in 1980 in the Human Resources department, where she held positions of increasing responsibility in compensation, diversity and human resources operations. In 1992, she was named director of Quality within the company’s Process Systems Group, and expanded that role in 1994. Klebe became director of Corporate Communications in 1999 before being appointed a corporate officer as the department Vice President in 2005.
She received a B.S. degree in journalism from West Virginia University in 1979. Klebe is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, past chairman of the Conference Board’s Council on Corporate Communications Strategy and past first vice-chairman of the board of directors of the State Theatre for the Performing Arts of Easton, Pa. Klebe, a third generation Mountaineer, was born in New Castle, Pa. and now resides in Easton, PA with her husband, Jim. Their two children are both Maryland Terrapins.
SAMME GEEWVU, BSJ, 1975
Attorney, Jackson Kelly Attorneys at Law, PLLC
Samme L. Gee is the head of the Firm’s Public and Private Finance Practice Group. Gee’s practice is focused on tax exempt and taxable municipal bonds and related governmental financings as well as corporate trust, legislative services and governmental agency representation. In that capacity, she routinely serves as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, trustee’s counsel or issuer’s or borrower’s counsel. Gee has extensive experience in the financing and development of infrastructure projects with an emphasis on water, wastewater, highways and public facilities and economic development projects. She is a member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers (NABL) and is listed in Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America®.
Gee graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1983, where she was a member of the West Virginia Law Review. She also holds a master’s degree in public administration.
RAY GILLETTEWVU, BSJ, 1971
Former president of DDB Chicago
Ray Gillette joined DDB Chicago in 1978 as an account executive and over the next 25 years he worked on many of DDB’s largest accounts, ranging from Anheuser-Busch, State Farm, Discover Card, Dell, General Mills, Dial and The Home Depot. In addition, Gillette was a visionary in integrated marketing, bringing its benefits to DDB clients long before it became standard industry practice. For his efforts, in 1996, he was named president of Beyond DDB, North America, DDB’s integrated marketing company and given the responsibility to grow the agency’s non traditional resources. In 2000, he was appointed president of DDB Chicago, DDB’s largest office.
In 2004, Gillette, with the support of DDB and its parent Omnicom, started Downtown Partners Chicago, an integrated marketing communications agency. Under his leadership, Downtown Partners, became the agency of record for a number of leading, brands: Walgreens, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual, Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau and the Kellogg School of Management.
On January 1, 2008, Gillette retired from Downtown Partners so that he could spend more time working with nonprofit organizations that benefit the disadvantaged.
Gillette serves on the Board of StreetWise – a Chicago newspaper for the homeless, where he serves as vice-chair and chairman of the publication committee. Salvation Army’s Metropolitan Chicago Advisory Board where he chairs the communication committee, Salvation Army Harbor Light Advisory Board, drug rehab facility, and he is a member of the Advisory Board of West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media. He has lectured on integrated marketing at Northwestern University, Thunderbird, the School of International Management, University of Michigan and West Virginia University. In 2001, he was inducted into the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
PAIGE LAVENDERWVU, BSJ, 2011
Assignment Editor, The Huffington Post
Paige Lavender is a native of Charleston, W.Va. She graduated from West Virginia University in 2011 and took a job with The Huffington Post shortly after. As one of the website’s politics editors, Lavender helped coordinate coverage of the 2012 elections. She is currently an assignment editor with a focus on politics and breaking news, and helps with coverage of Congress, the president and political news around the nation, including the 2016 elections.
Lavender earned her bachelor’s degree in News-Editorial Journalism with a minor in English. She ’s currently pursuing her master’s degree in Interactive Journalism at American University. She regularly advises students enrolled in West Virginia Uncovered at the WVU Reed College of Media. Find her on Twitter @paigelav.
JENNIFER MANTONWVU, BSJ, 1991
Chief Marketing Officer, Loeb & Loeb
Jennifer (Rupinsky) Manton serves as the chief marketing officer for Loeb & Loeb, a national law firm with nearly 300 attorneys representing clients ranging from multinational Fortune 100 companies to high-tech start-ups and high net worth individuals and families. Loeb & Loeb currently has seven offices located in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Beijing and Hong Kong.
Manton leads the firm’s marketing and business development initiatives. She works closely with the firm’s multidisciplinary industry and practice groups on developing and implementing marketing and business development plans and oversees efforts to expand and improve relationships with existing clients and to engage new clients.
In addition, Manton manages all aspects of the firm’s branding and marketing strategy, including media relations, advertising and online marketing efforts, as well as internal and external communications.
In 2009, Manton served as president of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA), a not-for-profit organization that provides continuing education and professional development opportunities for legal marketing professionals and attorneys. As president, Manton oversaw LMA’s efforts to serve as a collective voice for the organization’s more than 3,000 members.
Prior to being named president, Manton served as co-chair of LMA’s 2007 Annual Conference and Exposition, president of the organization’s New York Chapter and founder and president of the Pittsburgh Chapter.
Manton’s service to the legal marketing industry also includes several publications and forum addresses. In 2009, the Los Angeles Daily Journal published her article, “Understanding Firm Culture Is Essential to an Integrated Marketing Plan.” In 2008, Manton’s chapter, “Understanding Your Firm and Its Clients: The Key to Marketing Success,” was published in Aspatore’s “Best Practices for Marketing Lawyers.” Manton has also served as a speaker at professional forums hosted by American Lawyer Media and the Society for Marketing Professional Services, among others. In 2011, she was inducted into the College of Law Practice Management, an honorary society that recognizes distinguished law practice management professionals.
Manton joined Loeb & Loeb in 2005 and has nearly 20 years of experience in professional services marketing. She has developed and implemented marketing, business development and client service initiatives at regional and national law firms ranging in size from 50 to 450 attorneys.
Prior to focusing in the legal industry, Manton worked in two CPA firms in a marketing capacity.
Manton is a 1991 graduate of the WVU Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, where she studied public relations. She is a Pittsburgh native and currently resides in New York City.
JANE MCNEERWVU, BSJ, 1975
Jane M. McNeer is currently working as a fundraising consultant. Late in 2010, McNeer stepped down as Vice President of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc. and former Assistant Dean for Advancement of the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine. McNeer has more than 25 years experience in higher education public relations and fundraising, including service at Duke University Medical Center, Roanoke College and Virginia Tech.
McNeer earned her bachelor’s degree from the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism in 1975 and is the third generation in her family to matriculate to WVU.
DOUG MITCHELLOklahoma State University, BA, Radio, Television and Film
Consultant/Project Manager, NPR
Co-Director, UNITY “NewU” Startup Camp for Media Entrepreneurs of Color
Adjunct Instructor, Georgetown University
Doug Mitchell spent nearly 22 years at NPR as a producer and director. In 2000, he founded NPR’s innovative student training program “next generation radio” a program that gave hundreds of competitively selected college students a chance of conceive, develop, report, edit, write and produce their own story. Also, Mitchell directed NPR’s “Intern Edition” where competitively selected interns were given the opportunity to manage, report and produce their own program during the internships. Several dozen graduates of each of these programs are currently working in public and commercial media and some are now moving into management. Today, Mitchell is a consultant and project manager for NPR focusing on hiring and staffing in partnership with NPR member stations. Also, he’s an Adjunct Instructor for Georgetown University’s Master’s of Professional Studies program in Washington DC and co-director of a startup camp for media professionals of color who are looking to become tomorrow’s CEO’s and Founders. This program now it it’s 4th years, has so far awarded grants to 10 companies ranging from $3,300 to $10,000.
Mitchell is a 1978 alum of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund program; a 1997 Knight International Press Fellow to Chile and a 2007 William S. Fulbright Scholarship recipient, also to Chile.
CHRISTINA MYERWVU, BSJ, 1999
Freelance writer and editor
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, in Parkersburg, W.Va. Previously, she was an Associate News Editor on the Americas Copy Desk for Dow Jones Newswires, in New York, N.Y. She worked for Dow Jones and Co.’s real-time financial newswire from 2005 to 2013. She is a 1999 graduate of WVU, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism (news-editorial).
Myer began her career in journalism at 17, as an obituary writer and typist for The Intelligencer, in Wheeling, W.Va. She spent her college years working at The Daily Athenaeum, finishing up as managing editor in 1994-95. Myer has been a reporter, copy editor, paginator and a news editor at The Tribune Chronicle, in Warren, Ohio, The Intelligencer and The Wheeling News-Register. Before moving to the New York area, she was editor of The Times Leader, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, for two years, and with her return to West Virginia, she also returned to the world of daily newspapers.
JASON NEALWVU, BSJ, 1999
Technical Operations Manager, NBC News
Jason Neal is currently working at the Washington Bureau of NBC News, home to “The TODAY Show,” “NBC Nightly News” and “Meet The Press.” Neal is a technical manager planning and overseeing remotes and studio shows for NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. The WVU family is well represented at NBC, as Neal works alongside eight fellow Mountaineers.
Previously Neal worked in sports television production at ESPN and at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games. At ESPN, he worked as a network operations coordinator for all of the domestic and international ESPN networks and had a helping hand in landing a job with the sports television giant by a WVU alumnus.
A native of Glengary, W.Va., Neal is a 1999 graduate of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism with a degree in broadcast news and lives in the Columbia Heights community of Washington, D.C with his wife, Michelle.
WILLIAM O. NUTTINGHarvard, AB 1983; UCLA, JD 1986
Vice President, Ogden Newspapers Inc.
Bill Nutting is Vice-President of Ogden Newspapers, Inc., a newspaper, magazine, and directory company headquartered in Wheeling and founded by his great-grandfather H. C. Ogden, WVU Class of 1887.
Ogden Newspapers publishes six daily newspapers (Wheeling Intelligencer, Wheeling News-Register, Parkersburg News & Sentinel, Martinsburg Journal, Elkins Inter-Mountain, and Weirton Daily Times) in West Virginia along with 34 other daily newspapers and businesses in 15 states.
Nutting currently serves as President of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and on the board of the Associated Press.
At WVU, Nutting has served on the Board of Governors since 2008.
As Co-Trustee of the Nutting Foundation, he has supported WVU initiatives from a Visiting Professorship to a Journalism Seminar Series to the Nutting Hall addition at Blaney House. His proudest accomplishment in recent years is working with the recently deceased Ogden Newspapers Visiting Professor George Esper.
STEPHANIE MATHEWS O’KEEFEHarvard Univ, Radcliffe College, AB in Economics ;
Harvard Univ / John F. Kennedy School of Government, Master of Public Administration
Executive Vice President for Communications, American Bankers Association
Stephanie Mathews O’Keefe is the Executive Vice President for Communications at the American Bankers Association. She came to the ABA from the Podesta Group, where she managed the firm’s business development efforts. Stephanie served in the Obama Administration as the senior vice president for communications at the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
Earlier in her career, she was senior vice president for external affairs for the Local Initiatives Corporation, a national nonprofit community development support organization, and as an investment banker in public finance at Credit Suisse First Boston. At the Brookings Institution, she was the Deputy Director of the Retirement Security Project, and during Governor Gaston Caperton’s administration, she served as the Executive Director of the West Virginia Governor’s Task Force on Children, Youth and Families.
A native of Hinton, West Virginia, Stephanie has an AB in economics from Harvard and Radcliffe College and a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was a Rotary Foundation Scholar in Athens, Greece. Stephanie served as the treasurer and a member of the board of directors for the Center for National Policy and as president of the board of trustees for the School for Friends.
DAVID PAVELKOPrinceton University
Head of Travel, Google, Inc.
David Pavelko works directly with Google’s consumer travel initiatives and supports the overall strategy as well as business development and partnership efforts. David spent that last 5 years as Head of Travel at Google where he managed marketing and advertising campaigns for airlines, hotel chains, cruise lines, car rental companies, OTA’s, meta, and travel publishers across Google search, display, mobile and YouTube advertising platforms. Prior to joining Google, David spent 6 years at Cendant Corporation where he was Vice President of Business Development and was responsible for developing and managing marketing programs for Fortune 500 organizations for the purposes of leveraging Cendant’s travel (Orbitz, CheapTickets, Galileo), hospitality (Ramada Inn, Days Inn, Super 8), car rental (Avis/Budget), real estate and financial services distribution channels. David also spent time at Choice Hotels in a similar business development capacity as well as a few years in the sports marketing industry primarily managing sponsorship programs in IndyCar racing. David is a graduate of Princeton University.
ALEXIS COSTANZO PUGHWVU, BSJ, 1973
Owner and Principal, Lakeshore Advertising Consultants
Alexis Pugh is a retired advertising and public relations executive having spent more than 40 years working with agencies in Atlanta, Washington and Orlando.
She is very active in community service and serves on a number of boards, including the West Virginia University Foundation Board. She is also currently a member of the board of directors of The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Harbor House of Central Florida (domestic violence shelter), Bok Tower Gardens (National Historical Site), and the Advisory Board of Wells Fargo Bank Central Florida Region. She is also a life member of the University of Florida Foundation Board.
A founding member of the University of Florida’s UF Women initiative, she is working with the WVU Foundation to implement Women of WVU and serves on the steering committee.
She and her husband, Jim, live in Winter Park, Florida.
SEAN ROBERTSONWVU, BSJ, 1999
General Manager National Ad Sales, Dish Media Sales
Sean Robertson serves as a General Manager of National Advertising for DISH Media Sales, a division of DISH Network. As part of a diverse and dynamic sales team, his responsibilities include media sales, personnel management, and strategy.
Robertson began his career as a Sales & Marketing Assistant with Turner Broadcasting Sales in New York City. In 2000, He joined BET Networks Media Sales division as a Sales Planner and was promoted to become an Account Executive within two years.
Following his time at BET, Robertson worked as the Director of Multicultural Sales and Business Development at Alloy Media and Marketing. Desiring to return to his roots in broadcast media sales, Robertson left Alloy to join SiriusXM where he served as an Account Executive prior to joining DISH.
Robertson graduated from the West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism in 1999. While at WVU, he worked at The Daily Athenaeum as an Account Executive.
Robertson lives in Jackson, N.J., with his wife, Candice, a Registered Nurse and 1998 graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in psychology. They have two sons, Rafael and Brendan.
JANE SCHACHTELWVU, BSJ, 1988
Global Head of Tech and Telco Strategy, Facebook
Jane Schachtel is currently the Global Head of Tech and Telco Strategy for Facebook and is a tech industry veteran with a keen eye for the evolution of marketing in a world shaped by the technology she has spent her life bringing to market. Jane believes that consumer technology has dramatically changed the ways people communicate and purchase, and technology marketers must adapt their methods of creating influence.
This is an incredible opportunity to use the very people that use the platforms and devices that are changing the world to change the future of marketing. In her speaking engagements, Jane outlines the core trends tech marketers should keep in mind, the most effective ways to think about social marketing, and a vision for achieving the enormous potential technology itself has brought to technology marketing.
Jane joined Facebook most recently from Microsoft where she was Director of Social Media for Bing and MSN and prior to Microsoft Jane was a Director of Marketing at Intuit. In addition, she started her own consulting firm where she helped start-up and enterprise clients with product positioning, corporate branding, digital marketing and social media strategies. When Jane’s not immersed in all things technology and Facebook, she can be found hiking up or skiing down mountains, running, or eating and drinking good food and wine (hopefully in that order). Jane is a Member of the Board for Legs for Lauren, a non-profit benefiting pediatric cancer at Seattle Children’s Hospital and volunteers at women’s homeless shelters.
DON SMITHWest Liberty University, BS, 1986
Executive Director, West Virginia Press Association
Don Smith assumed the duties of executive director of the West Virginia Press Association in June, 2012, after serving as president and board member of the WVPA during more than a decade of involvement with the press association.
The WVPA represents the state’s 81 newspapers, serving as the coordinating body for staff educational development and professional recognition. The WVPA also serves as the industry’s legislative representative, monitoring public access and free press issues, along with all business legislation. Through its “Press Services” advertising agency, the WVPA places all forms of advertising in newspapers across the state and nation. As a service to the state’s college and university students, the WVPA Foundation each year arranges paid professional internships at West Virginia newspapers and awards scholarships to West Virginia students.
Prior to joining the WVPA in 2012, Smith had worked in the West Virginia newspaper industry for 25 years, all with Ogden Newspapers Inc. During his career, Smith worked at both The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, The Wetzel Chronicle in New Martinsville, The Inter-Mountain in Elkins and The Journal in Martinsburg. Starting as a part-time sports reporter while still in college, Smith went on to serve as bureau chief, editor, advertising director and general manager.
A native of Moundsville, Smith and his wife, Samantha, who is the advertising director for the WVPA, have three children and live in Charleston.
JOE STERANKAWVU, BSJ, 1979
Chief Global Strategist, Billy Casper Golf
Former CEO, The PGA of America
Now in his 37th year in professional sports, Joe Steranka serves as the Chief Global Strategist for Billy Casper Golf and its marketing subsidiary Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group. He describes his work as “coaching and consulting smart leaders in the business of golf, sports and sustainability.” The 1979 College of Media graduate was named to the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2014 and continues to give back through his involvement with numerous philanthropic organizations including the Visiting Committee, the George Esper International Student Enhancement Fund, Honda Classic Cares, Midnight Golf, the South Florida PGA and the World’s Largest Golf Outing.
Steranka made his mark on the game and industry of golf during a 25 year career with the PGA of America including seven as CEO of the world’s largest working sports organization. In addition to his role as PGA chief, he served and led the World Golf Foundation, the World PGA Alliance and the International Golf Federation’s work to return golf to the Olympic Games. He also steered an industry government relations program, We Are Golf, designed to achieve legislative and public affairs goals on behalf of the $68 billion a year golf industry.
Steranka guided the Association in elevating the PGA brand as a global leader and celebrating the accomplishments of golf professionals as stewards of the game. He developed long standing broadcasting agreements with CBS, NBC Universal, Turner Broadcasting and others to distribute the PGA’s premier events including the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship to record worldwide audiences and cultivated an unprecedented new media strategy with Time Warner to make PGA.com one of the leading golf Web sites.
Steranka retired from the PGA in 2012 as one of just 11 persons in history to be named a PGA Honorary Member, joining a prestigious list that includes former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. In 2009, he was honored with the March of Dimes Sports Leadership Award and in 2012 with the UJA-Federation’s Sports for Youth Award.
Steranka graduated from West Virginia University with a B.S. in Journalism and left Morgantown to work for the NBA’s Washington Bullets and Cleveland Cavaliers before he joined the renowned sports agency ProServ where he directed marketing campaigns for sports stars including Jimmy Connors, Michael Jordan and Florence Griffith Joyner.
Steranka and his wife, Joann, live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and have two children, Alexandra Trestik who works for Soul Cycle in New York City and Stephen, a 2011 graduate of WVU, who works for the Miami Marlins.
MICHAEL TOMASKYWVU, BSJ, 1982
Special Correspondent, Newsweek/Daily Beast; Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
Michael Tomasky is a special correspondent for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. He is also the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. Before joining Newsweek in May 2011, Tomasky was the editor-at-large with The Guardian News & Media’s U.S. editorial operation.
From 2003 to 2006, he was the editor of The American Prospect, a leading liberal opinion journal. While editor of the Prospect, he wrote a highly influential essay on the Democrats and the “common good,” which received front-page attention in The New York Times.
He contributes regularly to The New York Review of Books, where he has written about Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Al Gore and James Baker. Before moving to Washington in 2003, he lived for many years in New York, where he was a political columnist most recently for New York magazine. He is the author of two books, “Left for Dead,” on the intellectual collapse of the American left after the 1960s, and Hillary’s Turn, about Clinton’s 2000 campaign. In addition to the aforementioned publications, his work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, Dissent, GQ and many others.
A native of Morgantown, W.Va., Tomasky now lives in Silver Spring, Md.
LORETTA UCELLIWVU, BSJ, 1976
VP of communications and public affairs, Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Loretta Ucelli is a strategic communications executive who has spent her 25-year professional career as an advisor to some of the world’s most influential public and private sector leaders, including former President Bill Clinton. In a variety of senior positions in industry, academia, government, campaigns, labor unions and non-profits, Ucelli has created unique, comprehensive communications strategies to protect and advance reputation and image. She is known for her expertise in developing powerful and meaningful messages for multiple audiences around some of the most vexing global issues of our time, including health care, the economy and environmental protection and regulation.
Currently, Ucelli serves as the VP of communications and public affairs for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Prior to this position, Ucelli held the most senior communications position at Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company. She led global internal and external communications strategy development and execution for one of the world’s most valuable healthcare enterprises. She led the introduction of a new CEO to all audiences and advanced efforts to reposition the company. Prior to joining Pfizer, she headed communications, government and community affairs for Columbia University.
Ucelli has also served in two of the nation’s most complex and demanding government communications positions. For the last two years of Clinton’s term, she was assistant to the president and director of White House communications. She was among the president’s closest advisors and a key actor in framing White House communications on economic, trade, education, healthcare and national security issues. In the news release announcing her appointment Clinton said, “I can think of no better person than Loretta to convey our administration’s vision for building a stronger nation in the 21st century.” Prior to her White House appointment, she was associate administrator for communications, education and public affairs with the Environmental Protection Agency. There, she served as chief spokesperson with all audiences, modernized the agency’s environmental education program, extended its direct outreach to the American people and transformed public understanding of the agency’s role.
Her extensive communications experience also includes work as a consultant advising corporate and public sector clients on crisis management as well as executive positions with a pro choice non-profit organization, a trade association and a public employee labor union. She has a wide range of political campaign experience, and she has also been a news editor and on-air reporter for radio stations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Ucelli was born in Staten Island, N.Y., and currently lives in Manhattan. She graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was named to that school’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2002. She is involved in a variety of civic and professional organizations.
JOHN WALLSWVU, BSJ, 1978
Vice President, Public Affairs, CTIA – The Wireless Association
John Walls joined CTIA-The Wireless Association® in 2004, assuming the position of Vice-President, Public Affairs. Walls’ primary responsibilities are supervising external and internal communications, which include media relations, and the association’s web site, www.ctia.org. He is also responsible for the association’s research and creative staff, and the activities of MyWireless.org, the industry-sponsored consumer advocacy group.
Prior to his joining CTIA, Walls was a television news and sports anchor for nearly 25 years, most recently anchoring the evening newscasts for NBC-affiliate KJRH-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma from 2000 to 2004. Walls was a member of the original anchor team for Fox Sports Net and was based in Los Angeles from 1996 to 2000. He has also served as Sports Director for three television stations, including from 1984 to 1996 for KTUL-TV and KOTV in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his broadcasting career in 1978 at WWVU-TV, a PBS affiliate, in Morgantown, West Virginia before serving as host of the syndicated television program, “PM Magazine” in Texas. Walls has received numerous awards for his work in broadcasting, notably Regional News Emmys for his reporting on methamphetamine in Oklahoma and his on-location anchoring of the Timothy McVeigh execution.
Walls graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism.
SCOTT WIDMEYERWVU, BSJ, 1974
Chairman and CEO, Widmeyer Communications
Scott Widmeyer was the founder of Widmeyer Communications, a full-service firm he started in 1988. Over the course of 25 years, he grew the firm to become one of the largest midsize firms in the US. In July 2013, Widmeyer Communications was acquired by Finn Partners, one of the fastest growing PR firms in the US.
Scott Widmeyer has a 30-year record in providing strategic counsel to scores of decision-makers, from presidents to governors to chief executive officers to union leaders. From working as a newspaper reporter in the 1970s to running major media operations for national campaigns, Widmeyer knows how to get results for his clients. His track record of successes in education, health care, politics, campaign finance, technology, trade and other public policy matters illustrate his impact as a “change agent” in things that matter most to America. Clients regularly turn to Widmeyer for advice on economic development issues, marketing strategies, coalition building and crisis management. He founded Widmeyer Communications in 1988, building on a career in newspaper reporting and serving in major communications positions for five highly respected leaders former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker.
Widmeyer is active in a number of civic and philanthropic causes from his base in New York and Washington. He currently serves on the Boards of the New York City Leadership Academy, The Education Writers Association, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center on New York City and the George Washington University National Council for Media and Public Affairs. He also serves on the Leadership Council for the 2014 Gay Games. In 2007, he was named a David Rockefeller Fellow, a highly coveted one-year program of the New York City Partnership. He also was the longest-serving board chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, as well as serving on the board of GLAAD. In addition, he is active in the Council of Public Relations Firms, Public Relations Organisation International, Friends of the High Line, the National Press Club, the Appalachian Community Fund, St. Gregory’s Church, and PENCIL.
Widmeyer is a graduate of West Virginia University (WVU) where he has established two scholarship funds to benefit African-American and first-generation West Virginians seeking a degree in journalism. To date, more than 20 students have benefited from these scholarships, and in 2005, Widmeyer and his firm established the Widmeyer Communications Professorship in Public Relations, the first of its kind in the nation. Widmeyer has served as a Visiting Professor at the P. I. Reed School of Journalism and has been a guest lecturer at Brown University, the University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University. Continuing his commitment to his alma mater, Widmeyer is a member of the National Campaign Committee for WVU’s Capital Campaign and chairs the Campaign Committee for the Journalism School. He also served as chair of the Journalism School’s Visiting Committee until 2011. In 2003, he received West Virginia University’s most prestigious award in journalism The P. I. Reed Achievement Award. In 2010, Widmeyer reflected on his commitment to the institution and his career path in journalism, politics and public relations in a video interview with the WVU School of Journalism. Widmeyer was inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2009. His firm received the 2012 Diversity Distinction in PR Awards from the Council of PR Firms.
In 2005, then West Virginia Governor Bob Wise bestowed upon Widmeyer the “Distinguished West Virginian Award,” the highest honor provided by the chief executive of the state, and in 2010 he was named to the PR News Hall of Fame.