The money will be used to create a first-of-its-kind professorship — the C. Richard Yarbrough Chair in Crisis Communications Leadership — at the state’s largest university.
Yarbrough, a 1959 UGA graduate and former public relations professional, will be recognized for his donation during the college’s Dick Yarbrough Day on Tuesday.
“It will be a course of study that I hope everybody in the journalism school will go through,” he said. “It’s about getting students to understand that in a crisis the public will be a determinant in whether or not (an organization, individual or corporation) succeeded in dealing with it.”
Yarbrough said he is quite familiar with crisis management and is very proud of his past efforts.
He managed the chaos that followed after the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games when he served as the managing director of external affairs, and he also assisted in what he referred to as the “dustup” in Cobb County over gay rights resolutions in the 1990s.
“I’ve got a lot of experiences in crisis,” Yarbrough said. “It is something I feel very strongly about and strong enough about to make a commitment to the school to make it better.”
Yarbrough said he believes that when there are public crises like these, individuals need to be trained who can handle the questions regarding them.
“You can get on Twitter or Facebook and start a rumor, and you can damage a company’s reputation with just a rumor that gets life and is spread around,” he said. “That was not anything I ever dealt with, but young people now will have to learn to deal with that in the business world.”
He said he hopes the professorship opens up the doors for Georgia in that it will be the go-to place for media if or when a crisis occurs.
“My vision is that experts would come to the school and work with kids on dealing with crises,” he said.
Yarbrough has been working closely with Grady College for years to create the program and to determine the best route in bringing it to the university.
Cully Clark, dean of the Grady College, said there is no greater distinction than creating a professorship like this.
“This is huge,” he said. “Not simply in the amount of the pledge, but in terms of the concept and what we want to accomplish.”
Clark said he believes the program is needed at the school and that the pledge will assure Grady College will always have a faculty member who is among the most recognized experts in crisis management.
The college has named public relations professor Bryan Reber as the faculty member who will carry out the program.