Twenty years after starting her own PR firm, Cathy Ackermann (JEM/’71) celebrated by creating the Ackermann PR Lecture Series in the UT College of Communication and Information (CCI). Eight years later, she established an estate gift that would provide for CCI beyond her lifetime –the Cathy G. Ackermann PR Enrichment Endowment.
Ackermann left the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1971 with a fresh degree in Journalism. In 1982, while serving as Director of Corporate Marketing and Promotions for the Knoxville World’s Fair, she launched her public relations firm in an atmosphere of extreme business optimism, and instantly had Fortune 500 businesses as clients. Today, Ackermann PR is ranked as one of the top 100 firms in the US by PR Week and the Council of PR Firms.
Ackermann, both personally and professionally, has always been very active in the community, giving of her time, talent and treasure over the years. Since 1995, Ackermann has served on CCI’s Board of Visitors, as well as on the boards of many other organizations. Recently, with the creation of the Cathy G. Ackermann PR Enrichment Endowment, she has set the stage to provide for CCI for many years to come.
“I chose to make an estate gift because it is my best opportunity to give substantial funds to the University,” said Ackermann. “My gift will be used at the discretion of the dean of CCI and will go toward meeting the most pressing needs of the College at that time. I chose an undesignated gift like this because I believe that those in leadership positions within the College know better than I do how to use it for maximum impact.”
A few years ago, Ackermann decided to narrow her giving to focus primarily on the five organizations that meant the most to her and where her contributions could have the greatest impact. “The University of Tennessee was at the top of that list,” said Ackermann. “My education is what enabled me to pursue a career that has been very good to me, and I believe strongly in giving back to that institution and in hopefully allowing others to follow their education/career paths as a result of scholarships and other such opportunities.”
”Cathy Ackermann’s long-term support of CCI’s public relations program has greatly enriched our students’ experience,” said Mike Wirth, dean of the College of Communication and Information. “Her decision to make this additional investment will allow us to build an even stronger public relations program. I can’t thank her enough for this very generous gift and for her willingness to help future public relations’ students obtain a top flight UT education.”
During her time as a student at UT, Ackermann had many positive influences that helped to steer her in a positive direction and to understand what her talents were and how to apply them. “My love of writing was nurtured during my college years, and I still dream of publishing a book someday!,” said Ackermann. “I am grateful for what I learned at UT — how to create, how to work hard, how to build meaningful relationships, how to manage tasks and deadlines, and many other important “how-to’s.” I hope that through this gift I am able to help others learn these valuable life lessons.”
This gift is part of the Campaign for Tennessee, a $1 billion fundraising effort of UT. The College of Communication and Information’s goal for the campaign, which began in 2005 and runs through 2011, is $10 million. The college has raised 77% of its campaign goal, to date.