Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award

The Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recognizes a practicing school public relations professional for: outstanding efforts in mentoring colleagues new to school public relations; providing counsel and advice on job success; and assisting colleagues in their professional development by creating or providing programs and activities designed to improve PR skills and knowledge.

Award Criteria and Nomination Form 

2017 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award Recipient

Ron Koehler, APRRon Koehler, APR
Assistant Superintendent for Organizational & Community Initiatives
Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Rapids, Mich.



Learn more about our 2017 Recipient


The first thing you notice about Ron Koehler is his laugh. It is hearty, booming, irresistible and contagious. Combined with a warm and engaging demeanor, it draws people in like a magnet. It’s then that you quickly discover the insightful, knowledgeable and strategic thinker who is passionate about public education and committed to sharing his passion, skills and counsel with colleagues around the country.

Ron is a consummate communicator and school PR professional whose ability to create real dialogue, relationships and trust among diverse education stakeholders is key to his success and evidence of his enormous talent and skill. His colleagues note that at the heart of all his achievements is his own huge heart — he is “the real deal” — warm, friendly, genuine, and always willing to make time to share his wisdom and insight with all who ask. Self-effacing and humble, he lives the adage, “You can accomplish almost anything as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”

While Michigan has seen a dramatic decline in district-level communicators, Ron regularly reaches out to those who are new, including superintendents who are increasingly having to fill that role. He is a sought after speaker, trainer and counselor and continues to mentor new professionals in Michigan and across the country, helping them understand their jobs as well as the unique education climate we all operate in today.

Ron helped to create many of the communication toolkits used by Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA) members and has written chapters for several NSPRA communication products along with developing NSPRA’s Grassroots Organizing Toolkit for public education advocacy. As NSPRA President in 2010-11 and NSPRA Mideast Region Vice President from 2004-07, Ron brought his laser-like focus on improving the climate for, and performance of, our nation’s schools to the table, pushing for a higher vision for public education by engaging business and opinion leaders and legislators along with the education community.

The list of innovative initiatives he has developed and helps lead for Kent ISD is too numerous to list here, but includes a tri-county Talent Triangle that engages business leaders, legislators and superintendents in common goals, and the School News Network, an online news source featuring award-winning journalists covering stories about the ISD’s public schools.

But it is the testimonials from colleagues that demonstrate so clearly why Ron has earned their respect and admiration.

“As a new person to the school PR world, Ron Koehler was one for the first people I called on to learn the ropes. His sage advice provided to me 13 years ago was much appreciated, and to this day I continue to call on him for advice, to bounce an idea off of, and to seek his counsel.”

~ Dianne Litzenburger
Director of Communication Services
Charlevoix-Emmet ISD, Mich.

“Fifteen years ago I made the leap from corporate communications in the private retail industry to serving as a school public relations professional for an educational service agency serving 12 separate school districts and over 35,000 students. I am convinced that the key to my success in the field today is the amazing mentoring of Ron Koehler. To this day I know if I call him with a question, he will reply promptly with sage advice I treasure.”

~ Kristin Tank
Public Information Officer
Muskegon Area ISD, Mich.

“Because of Ron Koehler, I have grown tremendously and become something more — a successful school communicator and advocate, living out my own passion for public education, and helping create a better future for students and educators. Because of Ron, many others are too.”

~ Allison Kaufman
Director, Communications and Marketing
Kent ISD, Mich.

The motto of Ron’s department at Kent ISD is “Protect, Promote and Defend Public Education.”

It is a motto that he is clearly imparting to all who have the good fortune to benefit from his mentoring and friendship. Ron is committed to attracting and retaining new members coming into our profession and inspiring veterans to carry on the NSPRA tradition of mentoring those around us, in the true spirit of Barry Gaskins’ legacy.

We are very proud to recognize Ron Koehler, APR, as our 2017 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recipient.

The 2017 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award will be presented during the San Antonio Seminar General Session on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.

Complete List of Previous Award Recipients 

Award Criteria and Nomination Form  

Information About Barry Gaskins