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2017 ACE Professional Award
Robert Casler

The Professional Award is the highest recognition given by the Association for Communication Excellence to one of its members.

Robert Casler has served in many leadership positions within the Association for Communication Excellence, contributing to the excellence of our profession.

As a member of ACE since 1992, Robert served as Western regional representative for the Publishing Special Interest Group (SIG). He was instrumental in organizing the 1996 Western Regional Workshop in Tucson, Arizona. He served as Publishing SIG chair, coordinating the introduction of the Electronic Publication category to the Critique and Awards Program and the piloting of the Publication SIG electronic newsletter. He was a founding member of the X-Tension Chords and attended the May 2001 ACE Summit in Moscow, Russia. Robert served as ACE president for 2010-2011 and won the ACE Service Award in 2015.

He managed the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ (CALS) publication and marketing programs for more than 30 years, serving as coordinator of publications, as program director of publications/web programs, and director of college marketing, communications, and brand management from 2014 until his retirement.

He upheld professional standards for the high volume of work published through the CALS Marketing and Communications unit. His vast knowledge of and experience with commercial publishers and their procedures ensured a smooth flow, from consultation with faculty members regarding their needs, through on-time design, delivery to the printer, and subsequent distribution. Thousands of items were published under Robert’s watchful eye.

His long collaborative association with faculty and staff members and students in all college departments, extension offices, agricultural centers and other locations across the state—along with his associations with colleagues across the country, particularly in ACE—gave him the ability to convey a unified yet comprehensive view of CALS to various audiences. 

Robert has spearheaded the branding process from the ground up, encompassing input from all areas of the college while adhering to its new strategic plan and drawing on trends in marketing from across the country.

Over the course of 32 years of leadership in publishing, branding, and marketing, Robert’s calm adherence to high standards of excellence resulted in an impressive and enduring collection of publications, signage, ads, brochures, communications plans, and other promotional pieces and efforts that together conveyed the value of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to countless audiences.

Robert's acceptance remarks:

Thank you, Steve. I would also like to express my appreciation to those involved in my selection. Reviewing the list of previous awardees, I am reminded of the contributions many others have made to this organization which enabled it to thrive for over a century. It is an honor to be included with them. 

Having recently retired, I have had an opportunity to recall the high points of my career, and in particular the role that ACE has played.

For the first 9 or so years that I worked in agricultural communications I did not receive support to attend ACE conferences due to my job classification. When I attended my first conference in Miami, I was expecting to meet a very tight-knit group of professionals. Instead I discovered a group of peers who understood what I did, appreciated the challenges I faced and were eager to share their solutions.

Coming from a state that has been referred to as not “blessed” because we lack significant financial clout in D.C., our funding has always been dwarfed by states in many other regions, and as a result our staffing was significantly leaner. Yet in ACE I have never felt marginalized. Because of the professional development opportunities provided by ACE, I was always able to bring home a new perspective that challenged administrators there to think bigger.

I also discovered early on that anyone willing to step up and contribute to the health of the organization would be welcomed as an equal. As a consequence, I benefitted from leadership opportunities I would never have had on campus. Hosting a regional meeting in Tucson in 1996 in particular was a transformative experience for me.

Looking back I can honestly say that the relationships I have made through ACE far outweigh any made in my college activities. I believe this is because we are people who speak the same language. In contrast with the scientists and administrators I regularly interacted with, we are a group of creative types. We often spend so much effort emphasizing the accuracy and objectivity of our work that we underestimate the value of the creative spirit that sets us apart. This is something that was brought home to me recently when a colleague on campus shared a quote by NPR personality Ira Glass that you might be familiar with:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.

It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.

And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

To me ACE is an “equal opportunity motivator.”

  • You may not be programmed to be a dynamic presenter before a large group at a workshop or breakout session.
  • You may be better equipped to keep a team motivated and on track,
  • or you may be the person who can make critical corrections to a final edit.
  • You may be capable of making a video narrative inspiring,
  • or creating an elegant work flow.
  • Or you may be the one that brings originality to an Extension bulletin that is neither necessary nor appreciated by the readers.

ACE gives you an opportunity to reach an audience that recognizes the value you bring to a project.

I worked with someone who liked to say that a fire fighter shouldn’t expect accolades for putting out a fire, because they are just doing their job. Your peers in ACE will recognize when you are not just doing your job! And more importantly they will push you to satisfy your most demanding critic – yourself.

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