School is officially back in session. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 19.4 million students are back for another year of higher education at America’s colleges and universities.

While a late-night party, binge-watching Friends, or just good ol’ sleep may have made us skip a class or two in college, there were certain classes that you simply never missed. Those classes usually featured an exceptional professor who encouraged, inspired, and motivated us to enter the world of advertising and marketing.

The team at Spire has many different degrees framed and on the walls in our homes or offices. Some of us came from traditional advertising or marketing paths; others from the design or portfolio road; and still others came from journalism, finance, and even English.

Along the way, we all had our favorite professors that influenced our success in this industry. These teaching titans are from universities as far north as Boston, south as Austin, east as Baltimore, and west to Phoenix.

So, we thought we’d celebrate the back-to-school season with an old-school look at our favorite college professors who helped get us where we are today.

Julia Cardali | Account Supervisor

Gerard Blair is a lecturer in Advertising within the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland. Professor Blair has a reputation at all levels in the communication department, whether teaching Introduction to Advertising or Senior Capstone. And it’s no secret why: He is hilarious, sarcastic, quick-witted, with a wealth of industry knowledge, thanks to his many years in the profession. He truly goes above and beyond for his students, making himself available for support or questions anytime, anywhere. As one of two account executives that Blair “hired” in my Senior Capstone class (by far the best class taken during my college career), he pushed me to be better and think bigger, always. I am undoubtedly the account management marketing professional I am today thanks to the guidance—and necessary realness—I received during my many classes with Professor Blair. Thanks, Blair.

Jason James | Associate Creative Director

Professor Emeritus Jack Sprague is a world-renowned design educator, creative director, art director, communication designer, architect, and artist. Among his many other credits, he is known for building the highly-regarded Communication Design program at the University of North Texas, where he taught from 1990 to 2010. I studied in this program until 2010, his final year as head of the department. Jack had a remarkable ability to articulate design and draw out design solutions from typically unfocused, disoriented, and often untrained students and guide them to a place of higher quality design solutions without spoon-feeding them. It’s no wonder he’s received both The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching and Leadership and The Golden Orchard Award, a national lifetime achievement award for superior design education.

John Fatteross | Director of Strategy

My submission is Dr. Peter Ventimiglia, easily the most influential professor of my college days at Rutgers. Youthful and a lover of language, Dr. Ventimiglia was my freshman year English Comp professor and academic advisor. He looked at some of my theme reports and implored me to give up my humdrum, nondescript Business major and switch to English. “What the heck do I do with an English degree?” I replied. “I don’t want to write the great American novel, and I don’t want to teach (no offense).” But I trusted him and switched. And English led to Journalism, which led to copywriting. Copywriting led to a pretty solid marketing career, and here we are. As for Dr. Ventimiglia, he was denied tenure (something about spending too much time with students and too little time publishing—the horror) and hot-footed out of there for a plum corporate PR job at a major telecom company. But in his short time in academia, he made a major impact on at least one young person’s life. And, I have a hunch, many more.

Rachael Briner | Summer 2021 Intern

I may be biased, but Temerlin’s Advertising Institute is the best place to be, not just because SMU is in Dallas, where “big things happen,” but because of the people who fill the halls of the Umphrey Lee (Advertising) building. These professors and faculty have had an incredible impact on my life for the better, and I could not imagine where I would be without them. Although I deeply admire all the professors I have had, these four people constantly uplifted and guided me throughout the journey of my undergraduate degree: Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Professor Gordon Law, Professor Willie Baronet, and my wonderful advisor, Tami Fowler. They took the time to sit down with me outside of class, hand me Kleenex when I cried, talk about life, and help me find what I was called to do. I will forever be grateful to know and love them and to have had the opportunity to learn from such incredible individuals. Update: Rachael graduated in May and is currently enrolled in the SMU Dedman School of Law.

Ashley Morales | Account Coordinator

Dr. Sheri Broyles, or Dr. B as her students called her, was an Advertising professor at the University of North Texas during her nearly three-decade-long career. Dr. B’s class was one you never wanted to miss. Her high energy and profundity for life and advertising was a quality that went beyond the job description of being a college professor. A legacy highlighted by her many teaching awards, including winning the Scripps Howard Teacher of the Year award and UNT’s University Distinguished Teaching Professorship award. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. B for several classes; her copywriting class was my favorite. Having a professor be so enthusiastic about your work was a confidence boost in my writing and my future career that I cherished so much. She made all her students into better writers and helped to ensure that we would land at an agency that would respect our work and ourselves as human beings. Beyond the classroom, Dr. B was a co-founder of UNT’s student advertising agency, SWOOP. As a member and Vice-President of the agency, having Dr. B’s support and guidance behind the work that the agency produced was valued by all its members. In her recent passing, I remember all of the life lessons and writing lessons delivered by the joyful smile from a woman who was never afraid to be the boldest person in the room.

Alex Flores | Designer

I have had the privilege of studying under some of the most magnificent educators and practitioners in their respective fields of art. It took all of them to make me semi-competent in what I do today. Michael French was an award-winning art teacher at Fossil Ridge High School and taught print-making and how to give constructive criticism. Malone Samuels was the Art Professor at Tarrant County College and introduced me to the discipline of drawing the complex with simple shapes. Josh Ege, Associate Professor of Visual Communication at Texas A&M University-Commerce, tied all those skills together. He taught many of my classes, including Design I and II, as well as art direction, with an infectious conviction. His chief takeaway in every class was “concept is key,” making sure we baked it into every assignment. He motivates his students to reach better design solutions and the results are often accolades from top-tier student graphic design competitions such as Graphis, AAF American Advertising Awards: Student Division, and DSVC’s National Student Show. No wonder he was recognized with the Teacher of the Year Golden Apple award by The Dallas Society of Visual Communications in 2021 for his work in fostering conceptual thinking and exceptional design practices in the next generation of visual communicators. His love for teaching is evident in his impact on many strong creatives active in the industry today.

Mike Stopper | EVP Client Service & Planning

Dr. John Murphy is the Joe C. Thompson Centennial Professor in Advertising & Distinguished University Teaching Professor Emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a legend at UT Moody and has received countless advertising awards, including the American Advertising Federation’s prestigious Distinguished Advertising Educator Award in 2021. The motivating and highly energetic Murphy spent 40 years in the classroom teaching ADV 318J –Intro to Advertising. Ask any Texas Ex—they’ll tell you this was their favorite class. And with roughly 300 students in each class, you can imagine the number of advertisers he influenced in our industry. He also led 12 AAF District 10 National Student Advertising Competition teams, with eight advancing to nationals. I was fortunate to have Dr. Murphy for both classes, and I was on one of those nationals teams, so I spent a lot of time with him inside and outside the classroom. He truly loved advertising, teaching, UT, and his students. Oh, and ping pong, which we played quite a lot. He helped me get my first internship at GSD&M and traveled to my wedding in Houston. Of course, I named my first dog, Murphy, after him.

Kimberly Tyner | Chief Creative Officer

Two professors influenced my career the most. I was a math major at OU and then an economics major, taking various art classes for all of my extracurricular courses. Unhappy with economics, I was struggling to find my way. When I spoke to my oil painting professor Carol Beasley about how much I loved the arts but I wasn’t sure I could make a living, she told me to go to the Visual Communications building and talk to Karen Hayes-Thumann. I did, and that conversation immediately changed the trajectory of my future … I was hooked on design. I changed majors that day. Without these two extraordinary women, I wouldn’t be here today.

Rebekah Ellis | Account Supervisor

I was one of the few fortunate students who had Don Graham as an upper graduate writing instructor at The University of Texas at Austin. While I had some amazing professors during my time on the 40 acres, he left the most lasting mark—and was certainly the only one to invite his entire class for a drink at the pub on our last day! Professor Graham was approachable, engaging, and brilliant—an effortlessly commanding presence who held the attention of his students/fan club at all times while teaching his Australian Literature and Film class. I appreciate the invaluable experience I gained as a writer under his tutelage. But his stories and passion for the subject matter also planted seeds in my young mind. I travel frequently now, and I think part of that wanderlust was born in Professor Graham’s classroom, listening to tales of outback walkabouts and songs on the didgeridoo. He was named one of the “Top Ten Professors Ever” by UT’s alumni magazine, and he won the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award in 2013 and the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching in 2006. Don Graham passed away in 2019, but legends never truly die. His legacy lives on, both in his work and in the undimmable impressions he left upon students like me.

Angie Vasquez | Account Supervisor

Mary Lou Avera ran one of the Business Management Programs at the Dallas College Brookhaven Campus for 38 years. She was a great professor with a sarcastic and witty sense of humor that made taking her class so fun and engaging. Mary Lou was a true mentor and 100% vested in helping every student in her program succeed. The basic business principles, real-world knowledge, and career advice I learned have stuck with me throughout my career. She’s a true inspiration.

Steve Gray | Chief Operating Officer

I was fortunate enough to attend the University of North Texas in the early 1990s to pursue my business degree. At the time, a small number of faculty members were leading an effort to establish a new school within the College of Business specifically focused on Entrepreneurship. As a course of study, this was almost unheard of 30 years ago and very few universities in the country featured courses specifically focused on starting, owning and managing a business throughout its entire life-cycle. I had the privilege of taking classes specifically focused on entrepreneurship, and learned skills that still benefit me daily. UNT was one of the first universities to take this approach, and today the Entrepreneurship school is well-established and offers several accredited degree programs. Rather than single out a specific professor, I’d like to salute this group of visionary educators and all others willing to take the risk to continually innovate and make education fresh and relevant for today’s students.

Caitlyn Pobee | Senior Account Executive

Sandra Bravo is a senior lecturer in the Marketing Division at Babson College. She specializes in marketing management and strategy as well as communications. She went above and beyond, with every day in class a different experience—from top marketing professional guest lectors to real life projects and experiments. However, what makes Professor Bravo stand out from the rest is her availability outside of the classroom. She was an extraordinary mentor to me and someone I could turn to when I had questions about what was next for me after college. She would always answer any and every question I had about marketing careers, as well as help me network and meet some influential marketing individuals. She made me feel like a priority and provided an amazing foundation for my career. And for that I will be forever grateful.

These professors are some of the best in the country, helping to mold the individuals at Spire who collectively have become one of the nation’s most-awarded B2B agencies. We can’t thank them enough for what they meant to us and the thousands of other students they impacted as well.

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