The School of Communications dean was one of “six inspiring leaders of communications” honored at a Dec. 3 ceremony at the Grand Hyatt New York.
To kick off her acceptance speech during her induction into the PRWeek Hall of Fame, Communications Dean Rochelle Ford dusted off a nearly 40-year-old disco track to celebrate the occasion.
Before an audience of her public relations industry peers, colleagues, family and friends, Ford explained that the single “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” the signature hit by R&B duo McFadden & Whitehead, seemed quite relevant in today’s world. The song underlined Ford’s theme that work is under way – and needs to continue – to improve diversity and inclusion in the public relations industry and other professional fields.
“That song is so fitting because this is a real journey. And it’s a journey I have been on to improve diversity and inclusion within our industry, and it’s exciting to see those efforts be recognized,” said Ford in her induction speech. “However, the journey is truly not over. But I hope this award can continue to create momentum for our industry, to not only recruit diverse talent, but to retain it and to promote it to its highest levels.”
Ford was one of six inductees in PRWeek’s 2018 Hall of Fame class, celebrating “inspiring leaders of communications for their outstanding contributions to the industry.” The induction ceremony took place on Dec. 3 at the Grand Hyatt New York in New York City.
In addition to Ford, this year’s Hall of Fame class included Dave Samson, general manager of public affairs at Chevron; Harris Diamond, chairman and CEO of McCann WorldGroup; John Graham, chairman of FleishmanHillard; Lynn Casey, chair of Padilla; and Joanne Bischmann, vice president of communications at Harley-Davidson and president of the Harley-Davidson Foundation.
Ford used her 13-minute speech to champion the importance of diversity and inclusion, share her experiences during her own personal and professional development, and thank the mentors, coaches and sponsors she’s had along the way.
After thanking her parents and family, Ford singled out mentors Barbara Hines, emeritus professor at Howard University, and Constance Cannon Frazier, formerly of Howard University and current chief operating officer of the American Advertising Federation, for their endless support. Both women were in attendance to celebrate Ford in New York.
Also on hand to celebrate Ford’s induction were Elon alumna Heather Harder ’14, communications manager at RSE Ventures, and Stephanie Borland, associate director of corporate and employer relations for the School of Communications.
During her speech, Ford implored the PR professionals and agencies in attendance to “be willing to learn and to grow” in terms of inclusivity. To accomplishment this objective, Ford explained the industry needs to “invest into its talent pipeline.” This includes offering paid internships, fair living wages, and consistent encouragement and support for its young professionals – similar to the support she received during her career.
“I am humbled by this hall of fame induction,” she concluded. “And appreciate those who have stood beside me, in front of me and behind me.”
Prior to taking over as dean of Elon’s School of Communications this summer, Ford served as a tenured professor and chair of the Public Relations Department in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, responsible for all undergraduate and graduate public relations programs at PRWeek’s top-ranked institution.
Before joining Syracuse, Ford was a faculty member at Howard University for 16 years, mentoring African-American public relations professionals and championing the diversity agenda within the PR industry through research, grants, teaching and service.
A prominent speaker and researcher, Ford has led hundreds of presentations on multicultural communications and diversity, and her scholarly works have been published in Public Relations Tactics, The New York Times and refereed journals. She has received numerous accolades, including the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter’s Diversity Champion Award and PRSA’s national D. Parke Gibson Multiculturalism Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the Arthur W. Page Society.
Ford earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard, a master’s degree from University of Maryland at College Park, and her doctorate from Southern Illinois at Carbondale. She is the mother of two sons, Michael and Malik Larkin, and a daughter, Raven Ford.