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Legacy Scholar Grant
The Page Center will award grants to support scholars and professionals making important contributions to knowledge, practice or public understanding of ethics and resposibility in public communication or other principles of Arthur W. Page.
Penn State Live
Transition to Corporate World
1. Interviewer: It’s September 15th, and we’re in Chicago. I’m sitting with Jon Iwata from IBM. I want to thank you for spending some time with us this afternoon. I know that you’ve been busy with the Page Society conference. Why don’t we get started and we’ll talk about your early career. You graduated from San Jose State with a communications degree. Could you just talk about your early career and how everything progressed to get you to where you are today?
Iwata: Yes. Well, let’s see. I was fourteen when Watergate happened and like generations of young idealistic people, we found out about Watergate, and when we found out about Watergate through the work of, among others, Woodward and Bernstein, who were romanticized as ‘uncoverers of truth.’ So when you’re fourteen and trying to figure out what you want to do, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and I was interested in Liberal Arts, writing, and what not, I thought this is a very noble thing to do for a living as a profession: investigative journalism. I was all fired up and off I went, and I ended up at San Jose State in the Journalism program. My intent was to become a reporter—an investigative reporter.
A couple of things happened. One is I was late to that game because a lot of people were turned on to journalism suddenly and the market was being flooded with hopeful reporters, but that was one consideration. I took as an elective class a PR course taught by Dennis Wilcox, who is also a Page Society member. To be honest, my view of the PR people was these are my future opponents. I didn’t understand what this field was and I thought I would sit through this one elective course with my arms folded and with a mixture of disdain and pity for these people. But it was 1982 at this point and I was assigned through the semester to follow and report on the Tylenol case, which was unfolding at that very time. What I was astonished to find, as was everybody, it’s so famous now, was the decision made by J&J to voluntarily withdraw Tylenol. And of course they weren’t compelled to do so; they weren’t required to do so, and I was so impressed by that, that I looked more deeply into this thing called public relations to find out if you could get a major in it and you could get a job in it. So all of these things came together in 1982, I guess, and it caused me to change my major from Editorial Journalism to Public Relations, because of these things. So that’s what I got my degree in. It’s actually in Public Relations from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State.
I took an internship as required by Wilcox at IBM and I had no idea that they needed communications people in corporations and it turns out that IBM has hundreds and hundreds of them, even more so from then. Based on that internship at IBM, I was offered a job in a position full-time and I started off technically as an intern in 1983 and I became a regular employee of the company in 1984.