The University of Alabama

UA’s C&IS Honors Outstanding Alumni, Professors

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced its outstanding alumni, service, leadership and teaching excellence winners for 2013-14.

Everett Holle

Everett Holle

Bert Bank Distinguished Service Award

The Bert Bank Distinguished Service Award is presented to an Alabama native who has shown exemplary and extraordinary service to the College of Communication and Information Sciences or The University of Alabama, the state of Alabama, or the United States. The 2013-14 recipient is Everett Holle (Bachelor of Arts, 1950, broadcast and film communication), of Birmingham, an investor and businessman best known for his 40-year career at NBC 13. He is a board member of the Salvation Army, where he was honored with a lifetime membership. A long-term scouting enthusiast, he has been awarded the Silver Beaver, the Heart of the Eagle recognition, and was the Eagle Scout Class of 2010 honoree. He serves on the council board and was the television media relations representative for the 1998 and 1993 National Jamborees. He was president of the United Way Food Bank and spearheaded that organization’s acquisition of its new warehouse and office complex. As chairman of the Better Business Bureau, he oversaw its move into the computer era. He has been elected into the Bureau’s Hall of Fame and, in 2012, was inducted into the Alabama Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. Holle also served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 35 years, retiring as a brigadier general.

Ben Shurett

Ben Shurett

Betsy Plank Outstanding Leadership Award

The Betsy Plank Outstanding Leadership Award is given to a UA graduate with a longtime or lifetime distinguished career in any of the communication disciplines represented within the College of Communication and Information Sciences. The 2013-14 recipient is Ben Shurett (Bachelor of Science, 1974, education). After coaching basketball for four years in Alabama high schools, Shurett entered the newspaper business in 1978 as a management trainee for Tuscaloosa-based Boone Newspapers Inc. He has been publisher at three Boone-owned newspapers, in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Demopolis and Troy, and for two newspapers owned by Southern Newspapers Inc., one in Fort Payne and, since 2006, at the Sand Mountain Reporter in Albertville. He has served as the president of The University of Alabama’s National Alumni Association, chair of the UA Board of Visitors of the College of Communication & Information Sciences and president of the Alabama Press Association. He has received numerous statewide awards for writing, photography and advertising.

Outstanding Alumna, Advertising

Michele Elrod (Bachelor of Arts, 1980; Master of Arts, 1981) is executive vice president, head of marketing for Regions Bank, where she has worked since 1984. She has served as an executive sponsor and mentor for Regions’ 2013 Emerging Leaders Program and has served in board positions on the Mental Health Association of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, The Tuscaloosa Spouse Abuse Network and the Tuscaloosa Ad Club. She was voted top woman under 30 by the Tuscaloosa YWCA. She serves in The University of Alabama College of Business Mentor Program and is a member of the Culverhouse Board of Visitors. She is a member of Regions Leadership Group and a voting member of Regions product development approval committee and the corporate diversity committee.

Outstanding Alumna, Public Relations

Christi Burnum (Bachelor of Arts, 1992) is director of media at LMO Advertising, the largest ad agency in the Washington, D.C., area. She successfully creates and implements multimedia campaigns to meet the challenges of clients from the public, private and non-profit arenas. She leverages her proven experience in developing winning media strategies for clients such as Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security. She serves as a member of the 4A’s Mid-Sized Agency Media Directors Committee and is committed to helping the next generation of communication professionals pursue careers in media and advertising. Prior to joining LMO, Burnum was assistant vice president of media services at Lewis Advertising in North Carolina.

Outstanding Alumnus, Communication Studies

Dr. R. Pierre Rodgers (Bachelor of Arts, 1984) is an associate professor of sport management at George Mason University. He serves as co-academic program coordinator for the graduate program in Sport and Recreation Studies. At George Mason, he teaches courses in racial/gender issues in sport, sport communication, and rhetoric and public address. His research appears in refereed journals such as World Communication, Psychological Reports and the Journal of the Collegiate Forensic Association. He has also authored refereed book chapters on sport and communication; and is the co-editor of “Rivals: Legendary Matchups That Made Sports History,” published in 2010. His research interests focus on the interrelationship between race, sport, popular culture and communication.

Outstanding Alumnus, Journalism

Stephen E. “Steve” Stewart (Master of Arts, 2007) is an assistant professor in Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism and Communication, where he teaches multimedia interviewing, reporting, editing and opinion writing. He advises the newspaper and yearbook and connects students with the newspaper industry. His research includes technology and history, specifically Alabama author William Bradford Huie. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia, was a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution and became editor and publisher of the weekly Monroe Journal, which his family owned. He was president of the Alabama Press Association and a board member of the National Newspaper Association. After selling the Journal, Stewart was managing editor and Internet supervisor for The Decatur Daily. He was state president of Associated Press Managing Editors.

Distinguished Alumnus, School of Library and Information Studies

Dr. Allen C. Benson (Master of Library Science, 1993) is library director and professor at the United States Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He earned his doctorate in information science from the University of Pittsburg in 2011. His dissertation was titled “Relationship Analysis of Image Descriptions: An Ontological Context Analytic Approach.” He is a member of the International Society for Knowledge Organization, the American Library Association, the American Society for Information Science and Technology, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Library and Information Technology Association.

Outstanding Alumnus, Telecommunication and Film

Jeffrey L. Weaver (Bachelor of Arts, 1991) has had successful careers as a producer, writer, director, cinematographer, editor, musician and singer. After several years in the Southeast (directing nearly 1,000 regional commercials, music videos and television shows), he moved to Los Angeles, working in independent films until he got a break directing and shooting for the Warner Bros. internationally syndicated series, “The New Adventures of Robin Hood,” filmed on location in Lithuania. In recent years, he wrapped an exceptional 209-episode run of TLC’s hit “Little People, Big World” and ran the inaugural season of Animal Planet’s breakout series “Tanked.” Weaver then produced Discovery’s “Auction Kings,” which ran for 90 episodes. Since 2013, he’s taken on nine pilot episodes for three new Nat Geo series and a four-episode pilot for HGTV. He’s also developing a variety of his own shows.

Board of Visitors Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Chris Roberts, journalism

Dr. Chris Roberts is an assistant professor of journalism at The University of Alabama, where the first class he took as a transfer student in 1985 was the first class he taught as a professor in 2008. He came to Alabama after working in radio and newspapers in Calhoun County, and, after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism at UA, he worked as a reporter and editor at The Birmingham News and The State in Columbia, S.C. His research focus is media ethics, and, in 2011, he co-wrote a textbook with Jay Black, who headed the journalism department in the late 1980s. Roberts is serving on the Society of Professional Journalists’ committee to revise its ethics code, and he’s vice chairman of the Council of Divisions for the Association for Journalism in Education and Mass Communication.

Dr. Carol Bishop Mills, communication studies

Dr. Carol Bishop Mills is an associate professor in Communication Studies and the College’s associate dean for undergraduate studies. She teaches in the areas of relational communication, communication theory and health communication. She is most passionate about helping students understand the value of communication in creating and maintaining strong and healthy interpersonal relationships. Mills has directed numerous masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations. Her research focuses on teasing and bullying in both children’s and adults’ relationships and disability in health contexts. Her work on defining teasing won the Southern Communication Association’s Rose B. Johnson Award, which honors a significant article published in the Southern Communication Journal. Her work can also be found in the journals Communication Education, Disability Studies Quarterly and Communication Teacher.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.