“A hard candy shell with a soft chocolate middle.”
That is the phrase used time and time again by both students and faculty to describe Dr. Laurie Wilson.
Known for her tough love, Wilson will finish her last semester of teaching at BYU in December 2013 and has left an incredible impact both in the public relations field and major and the students she has taught.
“She honestly terrified me in my first class with her, but I’ve come to realize she brings the best out of her students,” said public relations major Kaitie Purse.
Dr. Wilson is an award-winning professor who is nationally, as well as locally, acclaimed in the public relations industry. She co-authored the major’s textbook for BYU, which is currently in it’s fifth edition and has been adopted by more than half the nation’s public relations programs.
“She’s tough, but no one knows the industry better,” Purse said.
Wilson received her bachelor’s degree in public relations from BYU and eventually earned her PhD from American University in Washington, D.C. She worked while in school and later in the public relations industry for several years. One of her favorite positions was finance within the national defense contract industry, where she working in marketing to bid for contractors.
The Public Relations Society of America inducted Wilson into the Hall of Fame in 1995. She serves as the BYU director of internships. Purse said she felt incredibly lucky to work under Wilson.
Wilson was asked by the communications department to come back to teach at BYU in 1989, where she served as chair of the department. Since then she has helped streamline the public relations curriculum in addition to writing the strategic planning and matrix textbook with professor Joseph Ogden.
“I had Laurie for my capstone class as an undergrad, and she called me to work together since with the textbook,” Ogden said. “She saw a problem in our curriculum so she took advantage of the situation and created a matrix program.”
Ogden was impressed with Wilson’s attention to the students’ best interests. She wanted the book sold at cost and works individually with each student who seeks her out.
“She absolutely demands excellence from her students, but she gives them all they need to reach that excellence,” Ogden said. “There is no one who cares more than Laurie Wilson.”
Wilson felt it was time to retire and said she wants to spend her time doing family history work and writing her ancestors’ stories. However, she possibly will still be seen around the Brimhall building.
“I’m sure I’ll still be involved with the university; I may teach now and again,” Wilson said. “I’m very invested here.”
Wilson has become an integrated part of the department. Another of her alumni, Dr. Pamela Brubaker, will be teaching strategic planning in her place and has been working under Wilson’s mentorship. BYU’s Public Relations Student Society’s directing professor Dr. Plowman explained that Wilson helped almost everyone in the department.
“She helps faculty achieve tenure and mentors junior faculty as well,” Plowman said. “She helps the faculty like she helps the students.”
Though students joke about her shouts and lectures — especially her fondness for the saying “for crying in the night” when frustrated — Wilson will be sorely missed.
“She’s the big kahuna, the mother superior, she’s the matriarch we go to for wisdom and advice,” Plowman said. “She’s an institution on campus as well as an institution nationally.”
Wilson says she has enjoyed teaching because it’s an opportunity to impact society for good.
“I hope I have been a productive part of training people to push forward,” Wilson said.