“Recognition of an original program of scholarly research”

Description: The Pathfinder Award is given in recognition of lifetime achievement to an individual who has made significant and sustained contributions to the body of knowledge and practice of public relations through published research.

A Pathfinder is a research pioneer who has blazed a trail in a particular area of research that advances the body of knowledge in public relations. The selection committee is particularly interested in candidates whose scholarly contributions have resulted in the publication of major articles, chapters, books, and other outstanding research endeavors that have advanced the field.

The award is for an individual who has:

  • Significant and sustained contributions that have resulted in the publication of major articles, chapters, books, and other outstanding research endeavors that have advanced the field.
  • Earned national or international attention for his/her research work.
  • A portfolio of research that has had an impact on the profession and research community, by bridging the two together.
  • Demonstrated outstanding leadership and noteworthy achievements that have inspired others in their chosen research area.
  • Is a senior-level scholar in areas of research that matter to the profession.


2022 Pathfinder Award Winner: 
Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda, University of Oregon

Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor, School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, will receive the 2022 Institute for Public Relations Pathfinder Award for his significant and sustained contributions to the field of public relations through research, education, and leadership. Dr. Molleda will accept his award at the 60th Annual IPR Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner on Dec. 1, 2022, at Current at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

The IPR Pathfinder Award is presented annually to an individual whose published work positively impacts the profession and research community by bridging the two.  The IPR Pathfinder Award Committee comprising IPR Trustees, past winners, and academic leaders in the field recognized Molleda’s noteworthy achievements and outstanding research.

Past Winners

IPR awarded the IPR Pathfinder award to Marcia DiStaso, Ph.D., APR, professor, and chair at the University of Florida, at the 2021 Annual Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner on December 2 at Current (Chelsea Piers) in New York City.

Dr. DiStaso pioneered research in digital media, financial communication, and investor relations. She has won many awards over the years, dating back to her IPR Best Master’s Thesis Award in 2004. Some of her most notable awards include the 2020 PRNEWS Top Women in PR Award, the 2019 PRNEWS Educator of the Year Award, the 2019 PR Measurement Hall of Fame, and the 2016 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Educator of the Year Award. With her students, she won a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence, Hermes Creative Awards, and MarCom Awards. She is an IPR Trustee and the director of the Digital Media Research Center. Before her position at the University of Florida, Dr. DiStaso was a tenured associate professor at Penn State University. She is also a member of the Page Society and served on the 2019-20 Global Alliance Board of Directors.

DiStaso has co-authored/edited two books, A Communication Guide for Investor Relations in the Age of Activism and Ethical Practice of Social Media in Public Relations. She has also published in multiple public relations, corporate communication, and mass communication journals, and has contributed chapters to books on digital media, crisis communications, and corporate reputation. Her current research primarily focuses on corporate purpose, or how companies create value for all stakeholders.

Dr. Lynn Zoch pioneered work in qualitative and quantitative research studies on gender issues in public relations, as well as gained respect abroad for her recent work on media relations. She has spent the last 20 years focusing on the intersection of theory and research within the practice of public relations, and is currently working to build predictive theories in several of these areas. In addition, Zoch has recently coauthored a book, to be released in 2020 by Oxford University Press, Strategic Media Relations in the Age of Information: An Evidence-based Approach. She is the author or coauthor of articles published in a number of public relations, corporate communication and mass communication journals, and has contributed chapters to books on framing, public relations theory and women in public relations. IPR Trustee and The Pathfinder Award selection committee chair Dr. Donald K. Wright, the Harold Burson Professor of Public Relations at Boston University, said the committee selected Dr. Zoch for her significant impact of her research contributions to the profession. “Dr. Lynn Zoch is highly respected as one of the nation’s leading public relations scholars for many reasons. She was one of the first public relations professors to conduct quantitative and qualitative studies on gender issues and her more recent work on media relations is respected in North America and overseas,” said Wright. “Professor Zoch also is widely known for nurturing and developing several PR Ph.D students who have gone on to the highest of leadership positions in public relations education.”

IPR awarded Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, professor of public relations and acting associate dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University, the IPR Pathfinder Award at the 2018 Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner on November 28 in New York City.

Dr. Sha pioneered work at the intersection of identity and public relations by developing a theoretical framework for intercultural public relations, grounded in the importance of cultural identity for understanding organizational publics and organizations themselves.

In addition, Dr. Sha has defined the identity of public relations for students, as a co-author of the 11th edition of Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations textbook; for scholars, as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Relations Research; and for professionals, as past chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, which oversees professional certification of public relations practitioners.

Prior to becoming a full-time educator, Dr. Sha worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Census Bureau, where she helped oversee the execution and evaluation of the promotional campaign for the 2000 census. This decennial census marked the first time that respondents could express their identification with more than one racial group; the census campaign won a 2001 Silver Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America.

“I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of my distinguished professors and many beloved mentors in earning the IPR Pathfinder Award,” said Sha. “As a second-generation public relations scholar-teacher, I feel keenly the responsibility to articulate and defend our professional identity, an ongoing challenge that today feels more urgent than ever.”

Jim Macnamara, Ph.D., Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology Sydney and a Visiting Professor at London School of Economics and Political Science, will accept the Institute for Public Relations Pathfinder Award at the 2017 Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner on November 29 in New York City.

Dr. Macnamara is internationally recognized for his cutting-edge research into measurement and evaluation as well as organizational listening through social and market research, consultation, stakeholder engagement, digital technologies and other methods. Dr. Macnamara’s findings in relation to organizational listening, described as “of major international significance,” have been reported in a detailed research report available online, a number of journal articles, a public lecture at London School of Economics and Political Science, and in one of his 16 books, Organizational Listening: The Missing Essential in Public Communication.

The Pathfinder Award selection committee chair Dr. Donald K. Wright, the Harold Burson Professor of Public Relations at Boston University, said the committee unanimously chose Dr. Macnamara.

“Dr. Macnamara is highly regarded as one of the world’s leading research authorities regarding communication measurement and evaluation,” said Dr. Wright. “He is an extremely worthy candidate for the award.”

Dr. Macnamara is an adviser on the development of the UK Government Communication Service (GCS) Evaluation Framework and was appointed a member of the GCS Evaluation Council in 2016. He serves as chair of the Academic Advisory Group of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) and is one of the key architects of the new AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework launched in June 2016.

Dr. Dejan Verčič is a Professor and Head of Centre for Marketing and Public Relations at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Dr. Verčič was the first Secretary General of the Public Relations Society of Slovenia, and the President of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA). He is an Honorary Member of the Croatian Public Relations Association (HUOJ) and a Member of the Arthur Page Society. Since 1994, he has organized BledCom, an annual International Public Relations Research Symposium in Bled, Slovenia. He is a founding member of the European Communication Monitor (ECM) research team.

Dr. Anne Gregory received the 2015 Pathfinder Award the highest academic honor bestowed by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) that is given in recognition of an original program of scholarly research that has made a significant contribution to the body of knowledge and practice of public relations. Dr. Gregory, Professor of Corporate Communication at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom and past chair of Global Alliance, presented “Leadership: The Final Frontier” at the Fourth Annual IPR Research Symposium at the Yale Club on November 17 in New York City.

Dr. Gregory’s research interests focus on capacity building in public relations and corporate communications and includes leadership, the strategic role of communications, ethics and globalization. She has authored 30 book chapters and 50 journal articles/conference papers as well as written and edited more than 20 books, including the globally available Chartered Institute of PR series. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Communication Management.

Dr. Ansgar Zerfass
University of Leipzig in Germany

Dr. Ansgar Zerfass, a leader in corporate communication research, will receive the 2014 Pathfinder Award, the highest academic honor bestowed by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) in the United States. Dr. Zerfass, professor and chair of strategic communication at the University of Leipzig in Germany, will present “Challenges for Communication Leaders – Insights from International Research” at the third annual Trustees Research Symposium on November 13 in New York City.

The research symposium will feature a panel of speakers reviewing progress in the field and research-based insights on priority topics identified by the Trustees as important to the practice. Zerfass will be presented with the Pathfinder award that night at IPR’s Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner featuring speaker Richard Dobbs, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, and Alexander Hamilton Medal winner Ray Kotcher, chairman & senior partner of Ketchum.

Zerfass is scientific director of the Academic Society for Corporate Leadership and Communication, an initiative initiated by chief corporate communications officers of more than 30 global companies based in the German-speaking countries. This initiative supports knowledge transfer and funds leading-edge research at various universities. He is also president of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association, Brussels.

Zerfass holds a university degree and doctorate in business administration and a postdoctoral lecture qualification (Habilitation) in communication science. He wrote and edited 30 books, 37 research reports and more than 200 articles and book chapters on corporate communications and interactive communication, including the “Handbook of Corporate Communication” and “Handbook Online PR” (in German) and “Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication.” He has contributed to the international body of knowledge by establishing the European Communication Monitor, the largest annual study in strategic communications worldwide, since 2007. The survey covers more than 40 countries on the old continent and has stimulated a parallel study in Latin America recently.

Dr. W. Timothy Coombs
Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida
PDF: How Theory Informs Practice: Situational Crisis Communication Theory

Dr. W. Timothy Coombs, winner of the 2013 IPR Pathfinder Award, is a professor in the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida.

His crisis books include the award winning Ongoing Crisis Communication, Code Red in the Boardroom, and the co-edited The Handbook of Crisis Communication with Sherry Holladay. His other works include two award winning books with Sherry Holladay, Public Relations Strategy and Application: Managing Influence and It’s Not Just PR along with Managing Corporate Social Responsibility:  A Communication Approach (also co-authored with Sherry Holladay).

Dr. Coombs has worked with consulting firms in the U.S. and Europe on ways to improve crisis communication efforts for their clients. He has given presentations to various corporations, government agencies, and profession groups about crisis management in Europe, the U.S., and Asia.

His articles have appeared in a variety of journals including in the Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Affairs, Management Communication Quarterly, Journal of Business Communication, Journal of Communication Management International Journal of Strategic Communication., Journal of Promotion Management, Corporate Communication, and Corporate Reputation Review.

Dr. Bruce K. Berger
Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising & Public Relations in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Alabama

Bruce K. Berger, Ph.D., winner of the 2012 Pathfinder Award, is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising & Public Relations in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama (UA). Previously he was chair of the department and director of the MA Program. He teaches public relations management and campaign courses at the undergraduate level, and seminars in persuasion, communication management and international public relations at the graduate level.

Berger earned his Ph.D. in Communication in 1999 at the University of Kentucky. He has received many teaching awards, including the national Educator of the Year Award (2006) from the Public Relations Society of America and the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award (2010) from UA’s National Alumni Association. He also was named Outstanding Student Advisor at UA (2010) for his work with Literacy is the Edge, a student advocacy group.

View Dr. Berger’s Pathfinder presentation at the 2012 IPR Trustees Research Symposium.

Researching Power, Influence and Effective Employee Communication
Dr. Bruce Berger, University of Alabama

Dr. Bruce Berger from The University of Alabama describes his research on power, influence and effective employee communication and how they affect the industry of public relations.

The Organizational Communication Research Center
Dr. Bruce Berger, University of Alabama

Dr. Bruce Berger from The University of Alabama demonstrates how The Organizational Communication Research Center provides practitioners with articles on best practices and measure in employee communication. To learn more visit the center here: https://instituteforpr.org/orgcomm/

Leaders, Supervisors and Culture
Dr. Bruce Berger, University of Alabama

Dr. Bruce Berger from The University of Alabama describes how leaders, supervisors and culture affect employee communication during his presentation on The Organizational Communication Research Center.



Dr. Cees van Riel
Professor, Corporate Communication, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University; Reputation Institute
PDF: The Alignment Factor: Academic Foundations & Practical Applications

Prof.dr. Cees B.M. van Riel, a research pioneer in corporate reputation and strategic alignment, received the 2011 Pathfinder Award, the highest academic honor bestowed by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR). Van Riel is professor of corporate communication at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and vice chairman and co-founder of Reputation Institute.

Cees van Riel has published a large number of articles (Academy of Management Journal, Long Range Planning, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Marketing, Management Communication Quarterly, Corporate Reputation Review, etc.) and ten books. His best known books are Principles of Corporate Communication (1996), Fame & Fortune (2004) and Essentials of Corporate Communication (2006).  His newest book, The Alignment Factor: Leveraging Total Stakeholder Support, will be published in four different languages at launch in early 2012.

“I see this award as an acknowledgment of the growing relevance of my research with RSM and RI colleagues, resulting in measurement instruments applied at a global scale in the area of reputation and alignment,” said van Riel.

Van Riel received his bachelor’s degrees in economic history and political science, and a master’s degree in mass communication from Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.  He earned his PhD in business administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Just prior to receiving the 2011 Pathfinder Award, the highest academic honor bestowed by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), Prof. dr. Cees B.M. van Riel presented research-based learnings on corporate reputation, communications and strategic alignment to the IPR Board of Trustees titled, “The Alignment Factor: Academic Foundations & Practical Applications”.


Dr. Maureen Taylor
The University of Oklahoma

The 2010 Pathfinder Award winner, Dr. Maureen Taylor, is Professor and Gaylord Family Chair of Strategic Communications at The University of Oklahoma. Dr. Taylor’s research interest is in international public relations, nation building and civil society campaigns and new communication technologies. She has conducted research and consulted for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of State, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Professor Taylor has experience training government, and civil society organizations in formulating, achieving and measuring strategic objectives, especially in the areas of media and communications. She has evaluated political transition grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and independent media for USAID in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Dr. Taylor also has worked as a media specialist on projects in Armenia, Kosovo, Jordan, and Serbia. Most recently, she has worked with the governing bodies in Southern Sudan and Aqaba, Jordan to help to improve communication with their respective publics.

Dr. Taylor is a graduate of Westfield State College. She earned her Master of Arts and her Doctor of Philosophy from Purdue University.

Bob Grupp, Institute President and CEO, presents Dr. Maureen Taylor, University of Oklahoma, with the 2010 Pathfinder Award.


Dr. Stephen A. Greyser
Harvard Business School

The 2009 Pathfinder Award winner, Stephen A. Greyser is the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School, where he specializes in brand marketing, advertising, corporate communication, sports management, and nonprofit management. A graduate of Harvard College, he received his MBA and DBA degrees from Harvard University where he was the Chirurg Advertising Fellow. Dr. Greyser has held an international reputation in marketing and communication research and teaching for more than half a century. His longtime association with the Harvard Business Review included five years as an editor and research director, and subsequently as Editorial Board Secretary and as Board Chairman.

Professor Greyser is known to many as the “Father of Modern Sports Marketing.” Outside the classroom he has provided marketing and public relations counsel to the NCAA, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL, the Olympic movement, Major League Baseball and more, including his beloved Red Sox.

Professor Greyser conceived and developed the Harvard Business School course in Corporate Communications, which in turn has led to more than 40 new case studies and articles on business-media relations, crisis/issues management, corporate identity and images, investor relations, changing roles for public relations/public affairs, sponsorship, and corporate reputation.  Professor Greyser also has supported the Case Study Competition in Corporate Communications conducted in an alliance between the Institute for Public Relations and the Arthur W. Page Society

To his students at Harvard Business School and specifically in his book,  Revealing the Corporation,  co-authored with John Balmer, Stephen Greyser logically and passionately believes that managing and communicating about corporate brands, building corporate identity, and protecting corporate reputation are vital issues for the boardrooms of entities global and local, large and small, corporate and non-profit.

Dr. Lynne Sallot
University of Georgia

Dr. Lynne Sallot is professor of public relations at the University of Georgia. Her central research theme, “Connecting Theory with Research, Teaching, and Practice,” focuses on theory development and application.

In 2007, Sallot received PRSA’s Outstanding Educator Award, and in 2008 she was honored with the University of Georgia’s highest teaching award, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

Dr. Kirk Hallahahn
Colorado State University

Dr. Kirk Hallahahn, professor at the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication at Colorado State University, is the 2007 Pathfinder Award winner. Hallahan’s speciality in teaching lies in the areas of public relations and publicity, advertising and strategic uses of communication technology in organizations. Hallahan has 19 years of experience in the marketing public relations and public affairs and has worked with a national public relations agency, two banks and a statewide trade association in California.

Hallahan is also co-editor of the International Journal of Strategic Communication.

Hallahan earned his BA. from UCLA and both his MA and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Prof. Paul Argenti
Tuck Business School at Dartmouth

Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, has taught the subject of management and corporate communication since 1977. He has held faculty appointments at both the Harvard Business School and the Columbia Business School. He has also been a visiting professor at the International University of Japan, Helsinki School of Economics, Singapore Management University and Erasmus University.

Argenti is the associate editor of the Journal of Business Communication and the Corporate Reputation Review. He wrote Corporate Communication, The Fast Forward MBA Pocket Reference and co-authored The Power of Corporate Communication as well as authoring more than 75 case studies for academic and managerial journals.

Argenti is a board member to the Arthur W. Page Society and the Corporate Communications Institute.

Argenti earned his BA from Columbia University, his MA from Brandeis University and his MBA from Columbia University.

Dr. Doug Newsom, Texas Christian University
Dr. Judy VanSlyke Turk, Virginia Commonwealth University

The 2005 winners of the Pathfinder Award for outstanding contributions to scholarly research and public relations professional knowledge are: Dr. Doug Newsom and Dr. Judy VanSlyke Turk.

Dr. VanSlyke Turk, director at the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Dr. Newsom, professor in the College of Communication at Texas Christian University, are co-authors of This Is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, one of the world’s most widely used public relations textbooks. Now in its eighth edition, the work has been published in English, Russian, Chinese and Romanian. It was the first public relations textbook to extensively discuss nonprofit and international public relations.

In March 2002, VanSlyke Turk founded the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, holding the dean position for more than two years. She was named Outstanding Public Relations Educator in 1992 by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is past chair of PRSA’s College of Fellows, a member of the steering committee of the Commission on Public Relations Education and the advisory board of the International Public Relations Research Conference.

In 1982, Newsom was the first woman to receive PRSA’s Educator of the Year Award, and she served as chair of the PRSA College of Fellows. She is co-author of three textbooks, co-editor of a woman’s studies book and the author of 12 book chapters. Twice a Fulbright lecturer in India and Singapore, Newsom has also conducted workshops in South Africa, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Vanuatu and India. She is also a member of the advisory board of the International Public Relations Research Conference.


Dr. Krishnamurthy Sriramesh
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
“Global Perspectives of Public Relations Practice, Research and Education”

Dr. Brad L. Rawlins
Brigham Young University

Dr. Derina Holtzhausen
University of South Florida, Tampa
“Postmodern Public Relations”

Dr. Karen S. Miller
University of Georgia
“Public Relations in U.S. History”

Dr. Linda Childers Hon
University of Florida
“Measuring Effectiveness in Public Relations”

Dr. Don W. Stacks
University of Miami
“Perceptions of Public Relations Education”

Dr. Elizabeth L. Toth
Syracuse University
“Gender Issues and Public Relations: How the Increasing Number of Women Influence the Public Relations Field”

Dr. Dean Kruckeberg
University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls)
Topics Including Professionalism and Ethical PR Behavior in Today’s Technology Driven Society

Dr. Glen T. Cameron
University of Georgia
Topics Including Teaching PR Management, Publicity VS Advertising and Implications of Electronic Newspapers for PR Teaching, Practice and Research

Dr. Kathleen S. Kelly
University of Southwestern Louisiana (Lafayette)
“Fund Raising: One of Public Relations’ Specializations”

Dr. Charles Salmon
Michigan State University

Dr. J. David Pincus
California State University (Fullerton)
Topics Including Management Communication and CEO’s Changing Communication Role and its Relationship to Corporate Leadership

Dr. Robert Heath
University of Houston

Dr. Donald K. Wright
University of South Alabama

Dr. David M. Dozier
San Diego State University

Dr. Larissa A. Grunig
University of Maryland

Dr. Marilyn Kern-Foxworth
Texas A&M University

Dr. Norman Nager
California State University – Fullerton.

Dr. Glen M. Broom
San Diego State University

Dr. Hugh M. Culbertson
Ohio University

Dr. James E. Grunig
University of Maryland