It was 4 a.m. in Gaeta, Italy when Robert Pritchard learned a bomb had gone off in Marine headquarters in Beirut.
In 1984, Pritchard was the assistant public affairs officer of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and was being faced with the first "crucible-type" event of his career. When the duty officer told of a possible six officers dead, Pritchard replied, "It will be much more than that."
His instincts were proven correct as over 200 officers died in the terrorist attack set off by explosives. Pritchard had the daunting task of reporting to Washington as well as getting in touch with officers stationed at ground zero. This event helped hone the young officer's skills in preparation for a long career in the field of public affairs.
In August of 2001, Pritchard faced a new task: taking on the role of a university professor at Ball State University. Previously, he attended Ball State for his master's degree in Public Relations which he received in 1988 after receiving a business degree from Phillips University in 1974.
Between his undergraduate and graduate years, Pritchard began his Naval career which spanned 27 years.
Teaching, according to Pritchard, seemed to be the obvious culmination of his career not only to pass on what he had learned, but also for the opportunity to impact another generation and perhaps having the students affect his life in return.
Although this is Pritchard's first university-level teaching position, he was a Professor of Public Affairs for the Defense Information School which teaches officers in all services of the military.
The real-world knowledge Pritchard gained from his years of military public affairs service is what he hopes to convey to his students in the future.
"Ultimately, I'm searching for ways to bring experiences into the classroom, and to be innovative as well as interactive," Pritchard said.
Pritchard also feels the opportunity to teach at Ball State is a privilege because of the kinds of students who attend the university. He said he feels their "good midwestern values and work ethics" make his job enjoyable and keep him on his toes.
This kind of adaptability, coupled with people skills that come with constant changes, is what has made Pritchard a success thus far.
"I'm not intimidated by change," he said.
In addition to being a professor, Pritchard is the new faculty advisor for Public Relations Student Society of America. Students involved in the organization agree that Pritchard's presence is an asset to the group.
"I think he's doing well because he really cares about the students. He wants to be really involved and help everyone as an adviser and a person," said senior PRSSA member Emily Marshall.
Pritchard says he is still the "new guy," but hopes to save his students from learning some things the hard way while encouraging them to grow.