Distinguished Public Relations Award

PRSA Georgia's Distinguished Public Relations Award recognizes a prominent Georgian outside of the public relations practice who has made an outstanding contribution to Georgia’s regional, national and/or international image or reputation through the use of good public relations practices and principles.

James W. Wagner, Ph,D., President, Emory University

James W. Wagner, Ph.D., an award-winning teacher and scientist, has served as president of Emory University since 2003. In 2014, emphasizing Emory’s vision of being "ethically engaged,” Dr. Wagner led Emory's academic and healthcare units in addressing an unprecedented crisis – the care of four people who had contracted the Ebola virus. Until that time, there had never been a known Ebola patient in the Western Hemisphere. Under Dr. Wagner’s guidance, Emory’s staff and board responded courageously to this critical need because it was the right thing to do and was aligned with Emory’s mission. Despite some controversy and a few fears expressed by the public, Emory proceeded to provide life-saving care and ultimately received the attention and praise of people around the world.  
According to several news sources, Ebola was the number one news story of 2014. The Emory Healthcare team was visited by President Barack Obama and was honored along with other Ebola fighters as TIME’s Person of the Year. The successful treatment of these patients in the midst of intense media coverage solidified Emory as one of the most important locations for innovative health care treatments in the United States. Under Dr. Wagner’s direction, Emory’s leadership in this uncharted territory demonstrated – to the world – courage in action, helped quell fears, and provided hope.  
Born and raised in Maryland, Dr. Wagner earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. Following a distinguished tenure on the faculty of Johns Hopkins, he served as dean, provost and interim president of Case Western Reserve University before his appointment at Emory.  
Dr. Wagner currently serves on numerous boards including The Carter Center and the Georgia Research Alliance. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as vice-chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Previous Distinguished Public Relations Award winners:

  • Gerald Grinstein
  • Mayor Shirley Franklin
  • Henry L. "Hank" Aaron
  • Monica Kaufman
  • Julie Gerberding
  • Bernard Marcus
  • Congressman John Lewis
  • F. Duane Ackerman
  • Alana Shepherd
  • Betty L. Siegel, Ph.D.
  • William P. (Billy) Payne
  • Gerald Bartels
  • Spurgeon Richardson
  • Sam Massell
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Dr. Johnnetta Cole
  • Andrew Young
  • Dr. Terry Maple
  • Larry Gellerstedt, Jr.
  • Dan Sweat
  • John Clendenin
  • Alonzo Crim
  • Truett Cathy
  • Cecil Alexander
  • George Crumbley
  • Col Charles Scott
  • Gov. George Busbee
  • Bobby Dodd
  • Ted Turner
  • Charles Yates
  • Herbert Jenkins
  • Robert Ormsby
  • Don Elliott Heald
  • Dean Rusk
  • Jasper Dorsey
  • Dr. Benjamin Mays
  • Richard E. Rich
  • Harllee Branch, Jr.
  • Dr. Sanford Atwood
  • John Portman
  • Opie Shelton
  • Ivan Allen, Jr.
  • Robert M. Wood
  • William B. Hartsfield