Without hesitation, Garry Ballard gave a firm yes when asked if he would do it all again. It is with this lasting passion for the profession and a firm belief in the value to society of people who can develop and send an accurate message the executive director of communications at Francis Marion University is now looking ahead to his retirement this month. After 10 years in this position, 33 years in higher education and more than 40 years in the field of communications, Ballard maintains it is time for someone else to take the reigns.
Contemplating his time at FMU, Ballard said, “It has been an enjoyable ride and this has been a wonderful experience. The friendships built with colleagues over the years have been very special.”
He added, “Above it all, it’s been a joy to work with students from all walks of life and to watch them earn an education.”
In this position, Ballard is responsible for communicating the FMU story to its various publics – on and off campus – by establishing and increasing awareness of university programs, policies, opportunities, goals and achievements.
“For the past decade Garry has been an integral part of this university,” said FMU President Fred Carter. “He has served with integrity, dedication and a fair amount of good humor. I can’t thank him enough for the role he’s played in many of the successes we’ve realized over the past decade.”
Ballard joined FMU in 1997, serving as the key communications strategist in developing creative approaches to producing official university publications, communication with the mass media, and producing documents, speeches and other media avenues that impact the role, scope, mission, stature, image and identity of FMU. He is also responsible for the university’s printing and mail functions. These efforts are supported by the 12 employees he manages. Ballard said the highlights of his service at FMU come through his work and that of his employees in these capacities.
They include a move to computerize the Communications Office, going from a cut and paste layout of publications to composing them on computers and desktops, and from mailing and faxing stories to sending them electronically. Also, the office has gone from using film photography to digital.
During his tenure, overall news coverage of the university has been improved by the initiation of a proactive approach in public relations activities, resulting in a nearly 90 percent increase in stories published in the past five years. Communications support was provided for a five-year, $12 million capital campaign that exceeded $35 million during his tenure.
In addition, logos for the university and its athletic department were developed along with a new promotional image for the university. Ballard also initiated a campus telephone directory to enable better communication among students, faculty and staff.
The Communications Office won several awards since Ballard came aboard, and the accolades keep coming. The office first earned an Award of Excellence from District III of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for having one of the best overall publications programs in the Southeast and a Merit Award for FMU’s total public relations program from the Admissions Marketing Report. Other honors include a Bronze Award for FMU’s total public relations program from Admissions Marketing Report and a S.C. Press Association second place award in the magazine or special publication category.
“I’d like to think I had some impact on the school from a marketing and communications point of view,” Ballard said. “But the truth is, I have had great, creative people to work with, who do what they are trained to do.”
From 1966 to 1968, Ballard was a member of the U.S. Army where he served as an information specialist. Ballard gained a decade of experience in a newsroom and earned an associate’s degree from Mitchell College in his hometown of Statesville in 1972. Then in 1974, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In addition to FMU, he has worked at six institutions of higher education in various communication capacities for 11 college presidents, 100 vice presidents and nine athletic directors. Ballard has worked for the following institutions: Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Winthrop University in Rock Hill. He has written more than 9,000 stories, produced 7,000 publications, made hundreds of audio/visual presentations and written many letters and opinion editorials for these institutions.
He and his wife Dare will be living in Mooresville, N.C.
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