Known for his unflappable personality, crisis communication acumen and commitment to helping students, Bryan Reber retires as head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations effective Aug. 1, 2022.
“Bryan Reber possesses all the qualities that make a great department chair: he’s reasonable, flexible, embraces ambiguity and works for the greater good,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “But, he’s also one of the most innately likable colleagues, an encouraging voice in the room and a rare leader who always, always tries to get to ‘yes.’”
Reber has served as head of the department or assistant head for the past 12 years, helping to lead many growth initiatives including the development of the Crisis Communication Think Tank, Crisis Communication Coalition, AdPR Executive Advisory Board, AdPR Academy, 4+1+1 program, Talking Dog, certificate programs like the Strategic Health and Risk Communication, and several labs including the Brain, Body and Media (BBAM), SEE Suite, Virtual Environments Room and Gaming Experience (VERGE) and Games and Virtual Environments Lab (GAVEL).
Reber has long been a prolific researcher, including several years as a co-author of the North American Communication Monitor sponsored by The Plank Center, and has helped lead the department during a time when it was recognized as the top US institution in AdPR research productivity.
He has a national reputation for his expertise in crisis communication and was named the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership in 2014. Through this role, he was frequently quoted in national media covering corporate crisis and he initiated the Crisis Communication Think Tank, bringing together industry professionals and scholars to collaborate on crisis issues.
“I had great expectations for the professorship at its inception,” said Dick Yarbrough (ABJ ’59), “and, Bryan Reber exceeded them. Thanks to his efforts, Grady College is turning out a new generation of relevant crisis communications professionals while making Grady a respected leader in the field with practitioners across the globe. I could not be more pleased or proud.”
Karen King, professor emeritus who retired in 2020, worked alongside Reber since he came to Grady College in 2004 from the University of Alabama.
“Bryan has contributed to the department in so many ways,” King noted. “He understands the importance of
culture in an academic department and was generous with his time, talent, support, and even his personal funds. This allowed the department to continue to have a pleasant environment for faculty, students, and alums alike.”
Reber is the author of several books, including the text book, “Gaining Influence in Public Relations: The Role of Resistance in Practice” which he co-authored with Bruce K. Berger, and his most recent book, “Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness,” which he co-edited with Glen Nowak and Yan Jin of the Grady faculty.
In all that he has accomplished in shaping the department, building bridges through partnerships, raising money to benefit student experiences and contributing to the betterment of the industry through his work on boards like the Plank Center or induction into industry leadership organizations like the Arthur Page Society, Reber’s key motivator is guiding his students to productive, impactful careers. Whether he is working with undergraduate students serving as Yarbrough Crisis Communication Fellows or graduate students whose goals are to teach, he is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of professionals.
Nicholas Browning (MA ’10, PhD ’15) worked closely with Reber who served as his committee chair for his master’s thesis and later for his doctoral dissertation.
“Bryan is a brilliant scholar and prolific in virtually every facet of academia: research, teaching, service, whatever—he does it all, and he does it all well,” Browning said. “I owe Bryan Reber a lot, and though I can never repay it, I try to pay it forward in the mentorship role I now find myself in. I consider myself fortunate to have been his student, privileged to be his colleague, and honored to be his friend.”
Isn’t that the most any professor can hope for?
Reber plans to enjoy time vacationing with his wife, Sharon, and gardening in his retirement.
Juan Meng assumes the role as AdPR department head effective Aug. 1.