University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Office of Public Affairs | University of Illinois Archives

Name: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Office of Public Affairs

Historical Note:

In 1919 a University committee recommended the creation of a Department or Bureau of Publicity. The Department's purpose was to "advertise" the University by sending speakers to press gatherings, women's clubs, high schools, county fairs, and chautauquas, and especially to let the taxpayers of Illinois "know just what character of educational service they are paying for." The following year, University Trustees appointed a Directory of Publicity.1 Since 1920, the Director's title has changed from Director of Publicity, to Director of Public Information, to Director of Public Relations.2 In 1980 consultants retained by the Trustees recommended further changes, and the Director became known as Special Assistant to the President and University Director of Public Affairs. Noting the "effective leadership within the University's complex structure requires a smoothly functioning and responsive communication process, "Trustees allowed the new Special Assistant to report directly to the President. The Special Assistant's duties are at the President's discretion and include "the development of a communication program to support the mission and activities of the University; the interpretation of our policies and programs to the public; and the development of understanding and support for the University on the part of constituencies served by the University both within Illinois and elsewhere."3 In 1987 the President commissioned a report on improving public affairs coordination at the University. The report recommended "that the authority and responsibility of the university director of public affairs be clarified and strengthened." It proposed the creation of "a public affairs group, chaired by the director, [to] develop and continually update a strategic public relations plan for the University." It also recommended that the name of the University Development Committee be changed to the President's Committee on External Affairs and its purview broadened to include "general oversight of public affairs." Trustees endorsed "the major directions" of the report.4

1. Board of Trustees Transactions, 30th Report, August 15, 1919, pp. 503-06; June 15, 1920, p. 854.

2. Ibid., 46th Report, July 16, 1962, p. 31; 59th Report, January 19, 1977, p. 187.

3. Ibid., 60th Report, January 17, 1980, pp. 506-07; 62nd Report, March 15, 1984, p. 509; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Student-Staff Directory 1990-1991, p. 62.

4. Transactions of the Board of Trustees, 64th Report, June 11, 1987, p. 288; November 11, 1987, p. 418.

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