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The Günter Thiele Foundation as a part of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany) aims to promote teaching and research in Communication Management, Public Relations, and Strategic Communication. It also works to support the next generation of researchers in these areas. The statutes form the basis of the foundation's work (only available in German).
In 2005 it officially became a legally independent, non-profit foundation and succeeded the Stiftung zur Förderung der PR-Wissenschaft an der Universität Leipzig (SPRL). The foundation is named after its co-founder and honorary chairman Günter F. Thiele, who has been supporting research in the field of Public Relations in Germany since the 1990s. The foundation is based at the University of Leipzig.
Mission of Günter Thiele Foundation
The Günter Thiele Foundation achieves its objectives by:
Management of the Foundation
Professor Günter Bentele, Dr. phil. habil. 1948, is an emeritus professor of Public Relations at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Leipzig. From 1989 to 1994 he was Professor of Communication Studies with a focus on journalism at the University of Bamberg. From 1994 until his retirement in the autumn of 2014 he held the first chair of Public Relations / PR in the German-speaking countries at the University of Leipzig.
Stephanie Berger has been a lawyer for the fields tax, legal and controlling at Deutsches Stiftungszentrum GmbH since 2012 and has also been a freelance lawyer at DSZ - Rechtsanwaltschaftsgesellschaft mbH for five years. Prior to this, Stephanie Berger worked as an lawyer in the department "Tax Advisory" at Ernst & Young auditing company mbH in Hamburg (2007-2012), as a lawyer in the Legal-Tax-Commercial Register Department at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Essen (2005-2007) and as Managing Director of the Essen Cultural Foundation (2006-2007).
Prof. Dr. Christof E. Ehrhart is Honorary Professor for International Corporate Communications at the Leipzig University. He was Executive Vice President Corporate Communications and Responsibility of Deutsche Post DHL Group until the end of 2018. Since January 2019 he has been Senior Vice President Corporate Communications & Governmental Affairs of Robert Bosch GmbH.
Phoebe Kebbel is a Managing Partner at Hering Schuppener Consulting. She works in the Frankfurt office, which she helped to build from 2003. Her focus is on corporate and financial communications. In addition to supporting various DAX and MDAX groups for many years, Phoebe has advised clients on communications in over 50 M&A transactions – ranging from midcap acquisitions to hostile cross-border takeovers. Phoebe Kebbel studied Business Administration at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Koblenz, Germany, Richard Ivey Business School in Canada and Ecole de Management de Lyon, France. She teaches communication management at the University of Leipzig and has co-founded the Center for Research in Financial Communications there.
Professor Werner Süss, deputy chairman of the Board of Trustees, is Honorary Professor for Corporate Communications at the University of Leipzig since October 2010. Previously, he supported the Institute as adjunct lecturer since 2002. From 2002 to 2012, he was Managing Director and later CEO of Vattenfall Europe Sales and Head of Business Unit Sales Vattenfall Central Europe. Today he is CEO of WindCapital Partners, Berlin.
Professor Ansgar Zerfaß is Professor and Chair in Strategic Communication at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He is also Professor in Communication and Leadership at BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, as well as, editor of the "International Journal of Strategic Communication", USA, and, inter alia, Plank Scholar at The Plank Center for Leadership and Communication at the University of Alabama, USA. He served as President of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association, Brussels. His research is focused on Corporate Communications, Measurement and Evaluation, Digital Communication and International/Comparative Communication. So far, he has published 34 books and more than 300 journal articles, book chapters and study reports in multiple languages. Current projects include, amongst others, the European Communication Monitor and Asia-Pacific Communication Monitor and "Value Creating Communication", the world's most extensive research program on corporate communications conducted by with several universities and global companies.
The foundation is named after Günter F. Thiele. He has played a significant role in shaping modern PR consultancy and has been actively involved in academic research in the fields of Public Relations and Communication Management for many years. Günter F. Thiele holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig and is an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Public Relations Agenturen e.V. (GPRA).
Thiele was born in 1934 and studied German Studies, Psychology and Philosophy at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. He started his career as a journalist at an east German radio station in Leipzig. After moving to Düsseldorf in West Germany he worked as an internal journalist in the employee communications department at Henkel and then as a copywriter at the advertising agency R. W. Eggert. In 1968 Thiele became the co-owner and managing director of the PR agency ABC Presse-Information. The agency went on to become the market leader for communication services in Germany.
At the end of the 1990s Thiele became interested in PR research – this was at a time when the discipline was only just starting to become established in German-speaking countries. He co-founded a foundation to support PR research at the University of Leipzig, which became today’s Günter Thiele Foundation. Together with other donors he has provided the foundation’s financial basis. The foundation is committed to the will of the founder and aims to continue his ideas.
The beginnings of the Günter Thiele Foundation
“After leaving the agency at the end of the 1990s, I wanted to stay in touch with the field of communication. I got into conversation with Professor Bentele from the University of Leipzig who I knew from previous meetings. We talked about the developments in the field and the challenges he faced in his job at the university. We came up with the idea of setting up a foundation which would have the financial resources that the university lacked.
In 2000, using my professional network and together with Professor Bentele, I helped to set up the foundation Stiftung zur Förderung der PR an der Universität Leipzig (SPRL). The SPRL was the predecessor of the Günter Thiele Foundation. Alongside supporting research projects, one of its most important objectives was to set up a chair for Strategic Communication. The chair was taken over by Professor Ansgar Zerfaß in 2007.
Looking back, I am very pleased that everything I had hoped for has become a reality.”
Günter F. Thiele
Günter F. Thiele and Professor Bernd Schuppener on the future of the foundation
Mr. Thiele, Mr. Schuppener, how satisfied are you as founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees with the developments of the foundation?
What are the future plans for the Günter Thiele Foundation?
Can research keep up with the groundbreaking changes happening in the field and be in a position to truly support companies?
An interview with Günter F. Thiele
You worked for a communication agency for many years - why did you decide to start supporting PR research and teaching?
What can practice learn from research and what can research learn from practice?
Looking back, how has the profession changed?
What advice would you give to young communication professionals?
What is your vision for the future of the Günter Thiele Foundation?