Institute for Public Relations honored PR and corporate communications professionals at its 56th Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner Nov. 29 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Lee RainieLee Rainie

Don Wright, Don Stacks and Tina McCorkindaleDr. Don Stacks (center) with IPR's Don Wright and Tina McCorkindale

Wendi StrongWendi Strong (center)

2017 Distinguished Lecturer Lee Rainie bemoaned the toxic nature of our online ecosystem which he feels is held captive by trolls, fake news and bots. The director of Internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center noted that during last year's general election, one-third of pro-Trump and one-fifth of pro-Clinton social commentary was initiated by bots infiltrating online forums. "Harassment is not a bug in our online culture; it's a feature," Rainie said.

Dr. Don Stacks was awarded the Jack Felton Medal for Lifetime Achievement for Advancement of Research, Measurement & Evaluation. He is CEO of International Public Relations Research Conference as well as professor emeritus of strategic communications at the University of Miami.

"What you don't know is that he focused on return on investment. And that return on investment was to make a better practice through relationship between academics and professionals," Stacks said of Felton. "Jack is someone who engaged those who he thought could make an impact and he supported them.”

Wendi Strong, retired executive vice president, corporate communications, USAA, was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Medal for Major Contributions to the Practice of Public Relations. Presenter Bill Nielson noted that Hamilton's techniques used at the time of the constitution are "considered by historians to be the finest piece of PR history."

"He represented what we do at our best. He had vision, the courage of his convictions and he contributed new ideas and policies to advance the cause of this nation and fellow man. We should all seek to do the same," Strong said of Hamilton in her acceptance speech.

Graduate student awards went to:

-Jung Kyu (Rhys) Lim, PhD candidate Univ. of Maryland - Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in PR Research (sponsored by Ketchum)
-Lyudmila Khalitova, PhD Candidate Univ. of Florida - Grunig PRIME Research fellowship
-Ruoyu Sun, Dr. Juan Mang, advisor, Univ. of Georgia - Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis Award