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FAMU SJGC Alum Eric Winkfield honored for his mentorship, public service to PR

First African American recognized by the Plank Foundation in “Emerging Leader” category

Plank Center's Milestones in Mentoring Gala Awardees pictured left to right. Bob Feldman, Eric Winkfield, Gregg Sherrill, Dale Bornstein, Tom Burrell, Bob Jimenez,and Dr. Cathy Rogers.

Chicago, Ill. – “My role as a mentor is to motivate, educate and inspire individuals to achieve their best outcomes. I don’t believe that one path is the same for all people. People have looked at my life and career and asked ‘how did I get here?’”

How indeed did the Miami, Fla. native Eric Winkfield, a 2015 public relations major and graduate of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communications, make it to ranks of the elite in the PR profession years before his 30th birthday? After only one year on the job as a communications specialist, Winkfield was promoted to public affairs manager for Washington, D.C.-based Pepco, a public utility owned by Exelon, Pepco. Yet, Winkfield’s nomination for his Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations Emerging Leader 2018 award was largely based on his “superior commitment to mentoring others.”

Evidence of his mentorship showed up Nadia Felder, a 2016 SJGC PR graduate, who provided a rousing introduction of Winkfield by invoking a South African word that described her successful interaction with the Emerging Leader awardee. Felder, now an account executive with, frequently mentioned her matriculation at FAMU SJGC during her passionate introduction of Winkfield. “Unbuntu: I am because you are,” Felder stated in cadence-like repetition during her remarks. The honor bestowed upon Winkfield by Plank was highlighted by his volunteer and mentoring accomplishments that began at the SJGC. While at the SJGC, he was the first black man to hold a national post in the Public Relations Student Society of America. It gave him a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of people of color, especially those attending HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

Pictured left to right: Dr. Ann. L Wead Kimbrough, Eric Winkfield, Nadia Felder after Winkfield's acceptance speech during the Plank Center's Milestones in Mentoring Gala

“I’m more interested in helping others to discover their own path and opportunities to help them get their best outcomes.” Winkfield said. “I have to pay it forward. I have to inspire and motivate others because so many people have invested and poured into my life to help me to get where I am today. I truly believe that there are others coming up behind me who need someone to make that same investment,” said Winkfield, also 2016 Integrated Marketing Communications Master’s graduate of West Virginia State University. Winkfield’s recognition was noticed by Pepco Holdings’ President and CEO Dave Velazquez who tweeted that the company is proud of Winkfield “representing @PepcoConnect’s work in communities through your outreach and mentoring.”

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations was established in 2005 by the University of Alabama in honor of its alumna Betsy Plank. It recognizes outstanding performance in the PR profession and the classroom. The Plank Center sponsors national awards, research and service programs that advance the “understanding and practice of ethical and responsible public relations.”

For more information please visit the Plankcenter Website.