Remembering a Beloved Educator and Mentor

December 2019
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Gracious. Engaged. Honest. These are three words that describe Dr. Glen M. Broom, a great PR practitioner, professor and friend who passed away on Aug. 8, at the age of 78.

Dr. Broom was an icon to many in the profession, and a legendary professor at my alma mater, San Diego State University, where he taught for nearly 40 years. With Allen Center and Scott Cutlip he co-authored the 1952 book "Effective Public Relations,” which is now in its 11th edition.

He was one of my first PR mentors. What I remember most about him was his warmth, tough love and commitment to helping students succeed. Glen introduced me to my first PR job, at the Gable Group in San Diego in May 1992. 

Dr. Broom told me that an alumnus of his wanted to hire an account coordinator. As a nervous graduate looking for a job during a recession, I was beyond grateful for the opportunity. 

One of the people who interviewed me for the job was a supervisor named Scott Allison. Now it’s 27 years later, and Scott and I continue to work together with others to build Allison+Partners, a global PR firm. 

His mentorship helped shape me into the PR practitioner I am today. Here are some of the lessons I learned from him:

Be honest.

In my senior year at San Diego State, I managed to enroll in a senior-level course despite having received a C-minus in an introductory, prerequisite class. Glen called me into his office and said I would have to retake the intro class. 

Moreover, I would have to set the curve by earning the highest grade in the class, which I went on to do. It was a good lesson in ethics —something that practitioners are judged on every day. 

Apply your skills and passions.

“Some people are book smart, but you are street smart,” he once told me. 

I graduated from college at 28 and tried many other things before discovering public relations. But there was always a common thread in my work: I enjoyed assembling strategic alliances and partnerships. Dr. Broom taught me that we should all apply our own particular skills to our work. 

I told him I wanted to work with businesses that are tied to my passions. When I started working with Scott Allison, I was empowered to pursue those big dreams with major brands, nonprofits and entertainment studios.

Remember that you’re part of a community.

He introduced me to PRSSA, from which I received a scholarship. 

Today, I continue to support the work of PRSSA through PRSA, sponsoring programs locally while our agency sponsors a national scholarship in memory of another PR practitioner, past PRSA Chair Steve D. Pisinski

Pay it forward.

In 2013, my wife and I worked with Arizona State University’s Cronkite PR Lab to develop the Aspire Award. 

Dr. Fran Matera had shown us the exceptional work that her students were doing with real clients, and we introduced the process to San Diego State University. 

As a “thank you” to Dr. Matera, we developed a formal mentorship program for which PR Lab students would enter an essay-writing competition. The winner received the Aspire Award, and would then be paired for a mentorship with a top-tier practitioner in their chosen field. 

It was fitting that the first Aspire Award recipient was paired with my mentor, Dr. Broom. At the awards ceremony, his words resonated with the audience: “You can’t un-ring a bell, in PR or in life.” 

Today, paying it forward can take many forms. Whether working with existing team members, reviewing résumés or speaking with college students around the country, it’s important that we inspire the next generation in our profession. 

My biggest takeaway from Dr. Broom was his sincere passion to help others. Because of him, I will always take the time to help educate college and high school students about careers in public relations. Reverse mentoring works, too.

If you ever had the opportunity to work with Dr. Broom, please celebrate his life by sharing these lessons from our beloved colleague. 

photo credit: sdsu

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