Barbara Baals explains why she cherishes CUPRAP

At the 2018 Spring Professional Development Conference, Barbara Baals, assistant director of media and public relations at Rowan University, was awarded the Don Hale Award for her selfless service to CUPRAP. Her heartfelt speech made the audience laugh, smile, and cry. Baals was kind enough to share her speech with us. We hope you read it with the same passion and beauty with which Baals conveyed it.


(photo by Dan Z. Johnson)

My involvement with CUPRAP is due primarily to two people, both of them Don Hale awardees.

In 1996, I answered a Help Wanted advertisement in a real newspaper for a writer at Temple University ™s News Bureau. With 10 years of newspaper experience and a B-plus in a single intro to PR class, I had the temerity to think that I was the perfect candidate to do media and public relations for my alma mater.

Luckily for me, Harriet Goodheart agreed. It didn ™t seem to matter to her that I had zero media relations experience ¦no strategic communication experience ¦and no established local or national media contacts.

Harriet took a chance on me.

And for 10 years, I learned media relations at the knee of a gifted PR practitioner. Harriet taught me how to have breezy communication with media folks, how to build relationships across the university, how to stand my ground with an administrator or professor who thought they knew how to do my job better than me.

As Harriet told me many times, œEveryone thinks they can do PR. 

Guess what? They can ™t.

One of my biggest CUPRAP thrills was co-presenting the Don Hale Award to Harriet in 2011. Harriet, thank you for being an extraordinary mentor and a cherished friend.

Fast forward to 2012. I ™m at my desk at Rowan University. My phone rings. It ™s Ray Betzner.

I worked for Ray at Temple. Last year in Hershey, I told a fellow CUPRAP member that Ray and I worked together for a very short time ¦like six months. Incredulously, Ray looked at me, in a very Ray way, and said, œBB, we worked together for TWO YEARS. 


Well, it was so wonderful that it felt like only six months.

On the phone, Ray asked me to consider joining the CUPRAP board.

My love of this organization was apparent. I had attended the spring conference for years. At my very first conference in 1997, I sat at a lunch table with the titans of CUPRAP ”Dan Hanson, Betty Hanson, the late, great Joe Donovan from LaSalle University.

We talked about writing. I immediately felt welcome, as though I found my professional œpeople. 

That ™s what ™s great about CUPRAP.   We are each other ™s people.

We are the ones who swoon over the rhythm of language ¦who obsess over fabulous punctuation ¦who inhale the sweet scent of the printed page.

We ™re the ones who get verklempt about exquisite lighting ¦who worry about posture and tie color and bad wardrobe decisions. We ™re the ones who nag administrators over and over again not to œfig leaf  in photos.

We are the storytellers ¦the script writers ¦the ones who carry heavy things and tape down wires for special events. We ™re the professionals who quietly rejoice when our presidents deliver our turns of phrase with panache. And feel genuine pain when they don ™t.

We ™re the alumni magazine editors ¦the champions of social media ¦the engagement specialists ¦the tagline creators ¦the branding gurus. We ™re the ones who bleed our school colors, whether they ™re Cherry and White, Brown and Gold, or the many variations of the Pantone palette.

We ™re the crisis communicators ¦the masters of creativity ¦the ones with big ideas (and teeny tiny budgets). We ™re the ones who do great work that goes largely unnoticed ¦until something goes wrong.

We are the ones who stand at Commencement and shed proud tears behind our sunglasses when we see the students we love walk across the stage ¦when we hear grandparents and brothers and sisters and moms and dads cheer ¦when we hear the opening bars of œPomp and Circumstance  ¦or, in the case of Rowan University, œUptown Funk. 

Sometimes, one person does all of that. But it doesn ™t matter whether you ™re a team of one or 20 or more. If you ™re a CUPRAP member, you ™re on a great team ¦and in exquisite company.

When Ray called me that day, I said I ™d join the board even though I wasn ™t sure I had the goods.

But here ™s the thing: If you love this organization ”and I know we all do ”we have a responsibility to keep it moving and growing and thriving.

We have a responsibility to make it better for, as Ray often says, œfor the good of the order.  We have a responsibility to the profession we love ¦and to one another.

So I urge you to get involved. And I ™m thankful to Ray for nudging me ¦and for teaching me that leadership also means recruiting great people, empowering them, and then staying out of their way as they do excellent work.

Serving on the CUPRAP board has been a professional joy. I ™m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of you. I ™d also like to thank my family ”and my Rowan family ”for their support.

Finally, thank you to my cherished CUPRAP family. Thank you to the members of the awards committee ”Dan Hanson, Genna Kasun and Heather Dotchel for your support and friendship. Thank you, Betty Hanson and Kathy Ettinger. Your talents at keeping CUPRAP afloat are unmatched ¦and awe-inspiring.

Thank you to my many fellow board members through the years. I can ™t name all of you, but big love to Mike Bruckner, my spirit animal in crazy ties. When we made big changes to the CUPPIES, Mike looked at me with confidence and said, œYou ™ll figure it out, B.  Have you ever watched Bruckner work a room? It ™s PR magic.

Thank you, Tom Durso, my South Jersey compadre and former Temple News Bureau teammate, who joined the board when I did. I ™ve learned so much about public relations serving beside you, Tom.

Thank you to the awesome Temple-Made team of Brian Kirschner and Renee Cree, who took over the CUPPIE committee when my service was done. Renee, just so you know, I want to be as cool as you when I grow up.

Finally, thank you to the wonderful presidents who led CUPRAP during my time on the board ¦Terry Day, Ray Betzner, Victoria Kidd, Andy Back and Gabe Welsh.

You all make me so very CUPRAP proud. I ™m a stronger professional–and a better person–for knowing you and working with you.

And I cherish what this organization has given to me ¦professional growth ¦networking ¦mentorship ¦friendship ¦and fun.

Thank you, my CUPRAP teammates and friends, for this lovely recognition.