LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 27, 2021) — Linda Rutherford, executive vice president of People & Communications for Southwest Airlines, will deliver the 2021 James C. Bowling Executive-in-Residence lecture, titled “Taking Corporate America to Task: Activism in the Workplace,” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, in the University of Kentucky’s Gatton Student Center Worsham Cinema. This is the Bowling Lecture Series’ 22nd anniversary.
The program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the UK Department of Integrated Strategic Communication and the College of Communication and Information.
Rutherford serves as chief communications officer for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest airline in terms of domestic customer boardings. In her role, she oversees communication and outreach; culture and engagement; diversity, equity and inclusion; people (human resources); and the Southwest Airlines University, which is the company’s employee development and training function. Prior to joining Southwest Airlines in 1992, she was a journalist in the Dallas area, including working for the Dallas Times Herald, and she began her career with Newsweek magazine in New York.
A Texas Tech University alumna with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Rutherford describes herself as having “a passion for education” and has shared her experience with today’s youth by serving as an adjunct instructor for undergraduate courses at universities throughout the country. Regarded as an expert in her field, she also authored a chapter in "Mastering Business for Strategic Communicators" (2017) and provided the foreword for "Business Acumen for Strategic Communicators" (2020).
Rutherford is known for her participation in professional organizations and through service on advisory boards. She has dedicated her time to organizations including: The Make-A-Wish Foundation (current board member); Arthur W. Page Society (current trustee and co-chair of the member insights subcommittee); Texas Tech University President’s Search Committee (2016); Texas Tech College of Media & Communication National Advisory Board (current member); and Institute for Public Relations Board of Trustees (current trustee and immediate past chair).
Some of her recognitions for leadership excellence and achievements in communications and civic involvement include: 2017 Citizen of the Year, Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce; 2016 Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year; 2016 PR Week named one of 36 Women Champions of PR; 2012 inductee into the PR News Measurement Hall of Fame; 2009 inductee in to the Texas Tech College of Mass Communications Hall of Fame; and 2008 inductee into PR News’ Public Relations Hall of Fame.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Linda Rutherford to UK,” said Chike Anyaegbunam, chair of the Department of Integrated Strategic Communication. “Her experience as a public relations instructor, her training and stint as a journalist, and her extensive industry expertise in corporate strategic communication, position her as an especially appropriate speaker for the 2021 James C. Bowling Executive-in-Residence program.”
Anyaegbunam added that "both students and faculty will learn a lot from her about the practice of corporate public relations given her long list of extraordinary accomplishments in the profession.”
In addition to honoring the Bowling Lecturer-in-Residence, the series names an annual awardee for Excellence in Public Relations. The 2021 winner is Susan Straub, longtime communications director for the Lexington Mayor’s Office.
Straub is serving her fourth Lexington mayor as communications director, a job which she began in 1992 during the administration of Mayor Pam Miller. To date, she has served as communications director for Jim Newberry, Jim Gray and, currently, Mayor Linda Gorton. She is a College of Communication and Information journalism graduate; in 2018 UK named Straub a distinguished alumna of the School of Journalism and Media.
The Bowling Executive-in-Residence Program began in 2000 and brings to UK nationally known public relations practitioners to not only deliver an address, but also meet with students interested in public relations careers. The program includes the Executive-in-Residence visit, the Excellence in PR Award and a scholarship for a senior integrated strategic communication major with an emphasis in public relations. The 2021 scholarship recipient will be announced at the lecture.
The series honors James C. Bowling, the late retired assistant chairman of Philip Morris Companies Inc. He attended UK and later served the university as a member of the UK Development Council. In addition to serving on several national boards, Bowling also worked with the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics and the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.