By Erica Lindsay, WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Each year, the West Virginia University Reed College of Media recognizes exemplary accomplishments and support of alumni with four awards.
“These alumni are the embodiment of what we hope for our graduates. They are passionate stewards of the media profession and remain engaged with our college, offering invaluable support to our students and programs,” said Diana Martinelli, Dean of the Reed College of Media, in noting the reasons for recognition.
The 2020 awardees include Rob Byers (BSJ, 1991), James and Barbara Gilkerson (BSJ, 1967 and 1968) , Mike Fulton (BSJ, 1979) and Alex McPherson (BSJ, 2011; MS Data Marketing Communications, 2017).
The P.I. Reed Achievement Award, created in 1966, is the most prestigious and recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement in journalism or advertising/public relations.
The Friend of the College Award, established in honor of the late Professor Emeritus Paul A. Atkins, recognizes individuals for their exemplary support and commitment to the College of Media.
The Commitment to Service Award was established In 2013 in honor of Dr. R. Ivan Pinnell’s more than two decades of service and commitment to the College.
The P.I. Reed Young Alumnus/Alumna Award, developed in 2004, is given to an individual who has graduated in the last 10 years and who has demonstrated the ability to excel in his or her field.
P.I. REED ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: ROB BYERS
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, West Virginia, two days after his graduation. In the 27 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 news-gathering functions for West Virginia’s largest newspaper. In 2015, Byers helped oversee the combination of Charleston’s two longstanding newspapers – the Gazette and the Daily Mail – and later became executive editor of the combined Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Byers was the editor on more than a dozen national award-winning Gazette projects. In April 2017, the Gazette-Mail received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting following a project on the role of drug wholesalers in the state’s opioid crisis.
In October 2018, Byers joined The Courier Journal in Louisville, Ky., as its senior local news editor. There, he manages a team of reporters who cover politics, local and state government, education and business.
In May 2020, Byers was part of a team of Courier Journal journalists who won the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s flurry of last-minute pardons in late 2019.
FRIEND OF THE COLLEGE AWARD: JAMES AND BARBARA GILKERSON
The Gilkersons established the James and Barbara Gilkerson Journalism Scholarship in 2013 to benefit recipient West Virginia high school graduates who are current residents. It was the College’s first endowed scholarship to provide four years of funding to students. The scholarship is unique because students who receive it as a freshman may rely on the same amount of funding each year through their senior year provided they continue to meet certain criteria. The Gilkersons’ support for the scholarship has grown to include two freshmen recipients each year. As native West Virginians, they take great pleasure in giving scholarship funds for students from their home state.
James, a native of Coalwood, West Virginia, was a public relations major and earned his B.S. Journalism in 1967. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Air Force for four years as a computer programmer and then spent more than 34 years in industrial and healthcare public relations, including roles with National Steel Corp., Kaiser Steel Corp., General Dynamics Corp., Hughes Aircraft Company, Raytheon Company and healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente.
Barbara Gilkerson, a native of Morgantown, West Virginia, graduated in 1968 with a B.S. Journalism, majoring in news-editorial. She spent more than 35 years in the labor relations and human resources fields for the City and County of Riverside, California, and for Kaiser Permanente. During her career, Barbara held a variety of management positions, including coast to coast responsibilities for Kaiser Permanente, largest non-profit HMO in the nation. In her early career, she was a school teacher in Selma, Alabama, including the first year that Selma city schools were integrated (1970).
COMMITMENT TO SERVICE AWARD: MIKE FULTON
Mike Fulton is a seasoned government relations and communications executive who manages the Washington, D.C. Office of Asher Agency, a full-service PR and advertising agency with multiple U.S. offices. He worked on Capitol Hill for a decade, serving two members of the U.S. House of Representatives as press secretary and special projects assistant. His work over the last three years of public service included staffing the House Appropriations Committee. That experience led to his career in advocacy communications for multiple communications agencies, where he had the opportunities to excel as a top lobbyist, award-winning public relations practitioner and skilled relationship developer.
He has led integrated marketing communications campaigns to support public affairs objectives on behalf of companies, institutions of higher education, medical centers, associations and nonprofit organizations. His specialties are grants/appropriations, persuasive writing, developing content into earned media placements and teaching.
For the past decade, Mike has enjoyed being an adjunct instructor in the West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program, teaching Public affairs. He served six years on the national WVU Alumni Association board of directors and was president of its National Capital Area Chapter in the Washington, D.C. area. Mike is also an active member of the National Press Club, Public Relations Society of America, and Advocacy Association. Recent awards include the WVU IMC Alexis Vanides Teaching Award; PRSA Platinum Award; National Press Club Vivian Award and the WVU Alumni Association John F. Nicholas Jr. Chapter Leadership Award.
Mike earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from West Virginia University. He also has an Associate Degree in Humanities from West Virginia University at Parkersburg, the community college in his hometown. Mike’s wife, Teresa, is also a WVU College of Media graduate, and they have two grown daughters.
P.I. REED YOUNG ALUMNUS AWARD: ALEX MCPHERSON
Alex McPherson is a vice president of social insights and analytics at Methods+Mastery, a specialty agency within the FleishmanHillard global network focusing on data-driven business intelligence, social marketing and content creation. He formerly worked as an analyst at FleishmanHillard and Golin.
Projects lead or developed by Alex have won four awards from the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), including 2020 Gold for ‘Best use of social media measurement,’ 2020 Silver for ‘Best use of measurement for a single event or campaign,’ 2020 Silver for ‘Innovation award for new measurement methodologies’ and 2019 Silver for ‘Most impactful client recommendations arising from a measurement study.’
Across a ten-year career in public relations, social analytics and brand strategy Alex has served dozens of diverse and innovative brands including YouTube, Google, GM, Cisco Systems, Nintendo and the U.S. Navy.
Alex received two degrees from WVU including a B.S. in Journalism – Public Relations and a master’s degree in Data Marketing Communications. He is from Huntington, West Virginia and lives in Dallas, Texas with his cat and work-from-home mascot Otto.