In Remembrance

EMU public relations professor Melissa Motschall dies 
By Pamela Young, APR

There is an old saying that educators never know how much they influence their students. But for Melissa Motschall, an Eastern Michigan University professor of public relations, her students’ success speaks volumes.

Motschall was known as both an outstanding teacher and public relations professional whose efforts touched and inspired countless students and fellow professionals. Many of her students went on to successful careers in corporations, public relations agencies, nonprofit organizations, health care and education.

Motschall, who came to Eastern Michigan in 1995, died Jan. 20 after a long illness.

“When Melissa and I began working together at EMU 15 years ago, I had no idea what a positive impact she’d make on my life,” said colleague Lolita Cummings Carson, a public relations professor. “Those who crossed her path quickly recognized her kindness, intelligence, strength and compassion.

“She mothered our students, created a writing program for foster care youth, recruited students to work with nonprofit organizations and so much more. We jokingly referred to her as our ‘department saint.’ Her death is a loss for us all.”

Kameya Shows, who graduated from EMU in 2004, loved Motschall as a teacher because she stressed the importance of both education and real-life experience.

“That’s why she was such a good professor and mentor,” said Shows, a senior account executive for Weber Shandwick, a public relations firm in Birmingham, Mich.

“I remember when I helped with our annual student development conference. Dr. Motschall encouraged us to not only make the conference fun, but one that also would benefit students professionally.”

In 2005, the Detroit Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) awarded Motschall the Robert Hefty Distinguished Service Award for outstanding work as an adviser, educator and trainer in the public relations field. The award, named after the late Robert Hefty, a long-time PRSA-Detroit board member and senior public relations executive, recognizes outstanding service to the chapter and excellence in public relations.

Motschall had taught EMU’s undergraduate and graduate level courses in public relations and professional writing since 1995. She also worked closely with young professionals and was adviser to the Eleanor Wright Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at EMU.

While at Eastern, she launched an innovative program called Write-Link. The one-week program exposed Metro Detroit high school students to technical communication, journalism, public relations and creative writing. She also developed a department-wide public relations campaign for the English department.

In addition to her work with students, Motschall assisted corporate, small business and nonprofit organizations with media communications and proposal development. During a special project through the Community Leadership Fellows Program, she worked with the Ypsilanti Senior Citizens Center to strengthen and expand the intergenerational program to bridge the communication gap between youth and older adults.

Prior to joining Eastern, Motschall served as communications director for the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University. She also worked for various community colleges in metro Detroit and Northwestern University in Chicago, training members of their police programs about media relations, public speaking and professional writing.

Motschall served on the board of directors for the Detroit chapter of PRSA from 2001-2007. During that time, she played a major role in advancing such programs as the annual student development conference, the Public Relations Student Association of America Detroit Protégé Program and the Detroit PRSA Scholarship Committee.

Motschall, a resident of Grosse Pointe Farms, received her bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1983, a master’s degree from Purdue University in 1985 and a doctorate in communications from Wayne State in 1995. She was an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America.

She is survived by her husband, Jon, and two daughters, Nanette and Alexis.

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