Todd Terrell, ’83, director of external communications at utility powerhouse, Southern Company, has built his career on yeses.
“Don’t pass up an opportunity, as you never know where it will lead you,” said Terrell, whose philosophy has fueled his 31-year career. “I have not had to search for the next great opportunity; it has always been right there in front of me.”
His first "yes” was to a job as a DJ in a radio station in the basement of the Wagoner Complex, which now houses students of the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. The business major didn’t know a thing about working at a radio station, but he thrives on new experiences and challenge.
A semester into announcing college hits, Terrell changed his major to communications, with minors in business and public relations. Eager for experience, the Warsaw, Indiana, native searched for internships at radio stations. However, one of his professors found Terrell an internship at WSPA-TV, a television station and CBS affiliate in Spartanburg, South Carolina. So, that’s where he went.
“At the end of the internship, the news director told me ‘goodbye,’ and I called him every Monday at 9 a.m. to ask: ‘Kevin, do you have a job for me yet?’” Terrell said. “I did that for six weeks, and on the seventh week, he said ‘Come on in, I’ve got a job for you.’”
Terrell said "yes" to a newsroom production assistant role, though his willingness pulled him into everything from videography to sports reporting. Soon, his portfolio was full of stories from covering presidents (Ford, Carter, Reagan and H.W. Bush), Pope John Paul II and the Rev. Bill Graham. On the weekends, he covered college football games for fun (specifically those of University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the University of Georgia).
Making the switch
After five years in the broadcasting world, Terrell made the jump to corporate communications in 1988. He had been working at a television station in Augusta, Georgia, where Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power was building a new power plant. After several months of reporting on construction, the second-largest utility company offered Terrell a job.
“When I was hired, the company had a lot of media relations representatives who had a print media or wire service background,” Terrell said. “They needed somebody with real broadcast experience to help them with their broadcast media relations.”
So, he did what he had done up to that point: he said "yes." Now, after three decades with the company and its subsidiaries, his breadth of experience is wider than he expected. He was the media relations manager for Southern Company during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, managed communications when the company built a nuclear power plant, and worked with Mississippi Power after Hurricane Katrina.
As director of external communications, he ensures corporate communication materials are consistent with the company’s brand and mission. He oversees social and digital media, annual reports, corporate social responsibility reports and crisis communication.
Although being a “yes” man has served him well, Terrell admitted that never turning down an opportunity hasn’t always worked out, but you learn from every experience — good, bad or otherwise.
“Many of the opportunities I took at Southern Company were not promotions, but lateral moves,” he said. “But they were new locations and helped me broaden my skills, and ultimately be of more value to the company.”
That outlook and perseverance, Terrell credits to Ball State — which outfitted him with the confidence and expertise to perform and reach for experiences.
“I don’t know what else to say except that I would never ever found this career path without my life experience at Ball State,” he said. “I’m very proud to be an alumnus.”
Because of his love for the university, he has made a gift each year since he graduated. But when his son, a freshmen studying architecture, received a generous scholarship, it inspired Terrell to make a more significant gift to the university.
Terrell committed to giving $2,500 to the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM) for four years, starting in 2019. Southern Company will match his gift, bringing the total amount of scholarship to $5,000.
CCIM Dean Paaige Turner said the college is grateful for both Terrell’s gift and Southern Company’s match. The power of the donation has been amplified, she said, which doubles the impact for students.
Terrell’s scholarship will be given to first-year student (of any CCIM major) from the southeastern United States, with the hope of increasing the geographic diversity of CCIM.
Turner said the diversity of the United States is often overlooked, but when students work with peers from different parts of the country, it provides a similar cross-cultural experience to studying abroad.
“We don’t recognize that the U.S. is larger than almost all of Europe put together,” Turner said. “There’s different backgrounds, value systems, languages and more. Interactions with those unlike ourselves enhance our ability to operate in a diverse world.”
Preference will be given to an Eagle Scout of the Scouts BSA, formerly the Boy Scouts of America. As a father of two Eagle Scouts, and an Eagle Scout mentor, Terrell said he wants to recognize the time and dedication it took to earn the prestigious rank.
“I saw first-hand the important leadership qualities both of my boys honed in Scouts including service to community, citizenship, respect, honor, dignity, trustworthiness, reverence, humility and so much more,” he said. “I want to support students who have those qualities and want to apply them to life beyond college.”
The Todd Terrell Communications Scholarship will be available in fall 2019. To learn more about the scholarship, contact the CCIM Dean’s Office at 765-285-6000.
by Alexandra Smith '18
- Student status: First-year graduate student, MA in public relations
- Expected graduation: May 2020
- Hometown: Elkhart, IN
- Fun fact: When I'm not reading or writing, I'm running. I've done four half marathons and one full marathon.
- Future goals: I would like to work in social media for a company like Ironman Triathlon or Disney.