Litwin’s acceptance speech for the Gary Hunter – Rowan University Excellence in Mentoring Award

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This has been quite a week for me and I have my former and current students to thank for everything, plus colleague Esther Mummert. I am so humbled. Within the span of a few days, I was named recipient of Rowan University’s “Gary Hunter Excellence in Mentoring Award” for “demonstrating exceptional abilities in supporting, encouraging and promoting the development of students’ academic, personal and professional growth,” Rowan’s “Advisor of the Year Leadership Award ‘for his outstanding advising’ (of a student organization sanctioned by the Student Government Association)” and  was named to the Rowan University Faculty “Wall of Fame” for Academic Advising.”

There is no ego here — just a deep feeling of gratitude. Below is my acceptance speech for the Hunter Award. The draft was posted prior to te presentation. Here is the final version delivered on April 2. Incidentally students — it is ONLY 2 percent passive and written at the 7.4 grade level.  Please take a few minutes to read it:

[Litwin Mentoring Speech]

Thank you Karen. Congratulations to the other recipients today and to all previous recipients who are with us, today.

I must tell you…when I got Karen’s call after playing phone tag for a good couple or few days…I was speechless. Yes…Larry Litwin, speechless. As Whitey Ashburn would have said…back in the day… “Hard to believe, Harry.” But yes, I WAS. I am humbled and I AM thrilled.

Usually, strategic communicators or public relations practitioners are heard and not seen. In this case, it’s both. So, this IS a bit different than the usual.

A lot of you may not know this, but I have been teaching here since 1972. It all started under one of BU mentors…the late Dr. Don Bagin…even before receiving my Master’s degree in School Information Services.

Before anything else, I must say this award would not be possible without my wife Nancy…class of ’71…who allows me to respond to literally dozens…and on some days more than 100 e-mails…like this morning even before 7 o’clock…plus calls on a home phone line we’ve had since 1980…devoted to students. And over the years, we have hosted more PRSSA meetings at our home than we care to count. Some would say… Nance has the patience of a Saint. So, I thank Nancy…and so do so many former students.

Many of those former and current students have honored me by joining us today. In no particular order may I introduce you to Rowan graduates, Rosie Braude ’08; and a master’s in ’09 (now with University Relations, here at Rowan); Kim Ciesla, ’11 (with Anne Klein Communications Group – Marlton and Philadelphia); MacKenzie Egan, ’10 (Six-Flags-Great Adventure); Nicole Galvin, ’08 (HB and M Advertising and Public Relations in Philadelphia); Michael Gross, ’03 (Senior Vice President at Horner Communications in Philadelphia);  The Honorable Heather Simmons, M ’96;  (Gloucester County Freeholder and school communication coordinator for the Glassboro Public schools); and Rebecca Timms, ’10 (public relations coordinator for the Philadelphia 76ers). Also, Arianna Stefanoni, ’06, who couldn’t be here today because she is handling community relations for Campbell Soup Company in Australia.

Rosie, Rebecca and Kim are Public Relations Gold Medallion recipients. It has been my family’s honor to annually sponsor the Litwin Family Medallion, which goes to the Most Outstanding Strategic Writer among a respective year’s graduates.

We also have some current students with us. Please meet graduate student EJ Campbell, who received his Bachelor’s degree last May in RTF, Michael Barratta, Colleen Kebles and Rhyan Truett. An incredibly bright future awaits them all. And…Colleen is THIS year’s Litwin Family Medallion recipient.

And, speaking of the Litwin family, I am happy to introduce you to my sister and brother-in-law…Jan and Steve Barbell. Our baby sister, Eileen and her husband Len were expected from Houston, Texas, but jury duty forced a last minute cancellation.

And how remiss would I be if I didn’t acknowledge a dear friend and esteemed colleague, our College of Communication Advisement Coordinator Esther Mummert. A little birdie told me it was Esther who was behind nominating me for this prestigious recognition.

I introduced you to these many people today because I attribute any successes I’ve had to my family…and…to my students’ accomplishments. I would not be standing here without them.

Nothing thrills me more than when a student… or Rowan’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America…PRSSA…receive recognition.

OK…so I’m not being totally…Open, Honest,

Thorough and Valid. When our children… Nancy’s and mine…(to differentiate from the students)…are recognized…it is the BEST, too.

While I…we…may be mentors to hundreds of students and former students, I must brag about our own kids: Julie and husband Billy Kramer…They are the parents of 9-year-old Alana, and 6-year-old Aidan. Julie is an award-winning second grade teacher in Atlanta.

Our son, Dr. Adam Seth Litwin, recently married. Adam is a founding faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore…after graduating from Wharton School, London School of Economics and MIT.

Both Julie and Adam had work commitments couldn’t be here.


 In the 42 years I have been here at Rowan, and especially since I went full time again in the

mid ‘90s… I have loved every day.

Open, Honest, Thorough and Valid…four words my students learn on Day One…I have never left the house for the College and gotten in the car without looking forward to getting in front of a class and/or meeting with students. It is worth repeating…I have loved EVERY DAY of meeting with students and practicing the art of edutainment front of a class. I couldn’t even say that during my years at KYW Newsradio…though I did enjoy them immensely and still keep in touch on a regular basis.

Four more important words I share with students on Day One of each new class…The acronym is HELP. I borrowed from a good friend and colleague, Riney Jordan…a schools superintendent in Texas.






H.” I expect students to hear what I have to say. In other words, they had better be listening or I will call them out.

The “E” is for encourage. Like many of you, I never stop encouraging students to succeed. As my mother, Jeannie, taught us, can’t is not in the dictionary.

The “L” word…Love. How important is that word? More on the L word in a moment.

And the “P”…prepare. That’s my job. To help prepare students for their future. Our father, Eddie, always promised, with hard work, you can be anything you set out to be. I assure my students, if they do their share, they will graduate and hit the ground running. It is my job to assure they are heading in the right direction.


Back to the “L” word, LOVE. Incidentally, in all the years I’ve been here, I rarely cancel a class and…in fact, thank goodness…have taken only one sick day. Wednesday…was one of those days I had someone fill in for me for a class. It was EJ. Thank you EJ.

I tell you that, because…unfortunately, The LOVE word, came up Wednesday at the funeral of one of our graduates, Chris Schenk ’03. He passed on Monday after a valiant fight against melanoma.

Nancy, another graduate, Chris Lukach, class of ’04,  and I…listened to the eulogies as Chris’ father, Gary, his best friend, Evo, and the Rabbi all mentioned Rowan and… PRSSA a number of times. They said Chris took with him from Rowan…in addition to his excellent education…a LOVE for everyone. Christopher Schenk believed if you love others they will love you back. He told his parents he learned that from PRSSA.

And then…his father said, Chris had vowed years ago, he would not let one day go by when he would not try to change at least one person’s life for the better. Gary Schenk said his son Chris learned that at Rowan, too.


At the very mention of Rowan and PRSSA, my emotions flowed.


The definition of mentor is: “A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” As I sat there on Wednesday, I said to myself, … sometimes we just don’t realize the impact we have on others…and especially our students.


So…on an up note…and to build on Chris Schenk’s legacy…

Thank goodness, I a fired up…fired up..fired up every single day. Years ago, I promised myself… while a student at Parsons College in Iowa, where, incidentally, I met Nancy, that if ever I taught college… I would emulate my Parsons professors who mentored and coached me and…without question…changed my life forever.

They believed in me…just as I believe in each and every student who enters my classroom.


On behalf of all of my students and my family, from the top of my heart…thank you so much for this honor.

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