The University of Texas today announced that The Richards Group founder Stan Richards will remain the namesake of its advertising school. The news comes more than a year after Richards made a racist remark during a client meeting that forced him to step down from his agency.
Richards’ remarks during an internal meeting that a Motel 6 ad campaign was “too Black” for the motel’s “white supremacist constituents” triggered a hemorrhaging of clients including Motel 6, Home Depot and Keurig Dr Pepper. Since then, the agency has been trying to rebuild, recently winning agency of record duties for fiber-optic provider MetroNet.
The news was announced in an internal report released today by the school’s Moody College of Communication, of which the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations is a part.
“While we strongly denounce Richards’ remarks, we also acknowledge his remorse and his condemnation of racism and bigotry in all its forms,” wrote Jay M. Bernhardt, dean of Moody College, in the report. “When considering Richards’ offensive comments and subsequent apology on balance with his many significant contributions to the field and the College, we have decided that his name will remain on the school.
“We understand that this outcome will perpetuate feelings of pain or anger within our community,” Bernhardt continued. “We will do our very best to listen to all voices, offer support, and continue making positive changes that bring us together. Our excellence and our culture are not based on names or labels but are firmly grounded in the quality of our people, community, and values.”
Bernhardt sent a letter to the school community today addressing the steps the school has taken in the wake of the Richards incident. The letter did not acknowledge that the school was retaining Richards’ name. Rather, it referred the community to the report, titled “Response and Reflections on Stan Richards’ Racial Remarks of October 2020 and a Path Forward to Strengthen our College’s Community and Culture.”
The decision to retain Richards’ name on the school did not appear until the third page of the five-page report.
According to a school representative, Dean Bernhardt wanted the school community to “read the full report and understand the background and thinking behind the college’s response to the incident.”
The Department of Advertising & Public Relations in the Moody College of Communication was first renamed the “Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations” in 2014, following a $10 million fundraising campaign to support the school that included a significant gift from Richards.
The Moody report noted that the school began an investigation in October 2020 by two outside consultants, following the college community’s strong reaction to Richards’ comments.
The report said that one of those consultants was an outside journalist, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and opinion columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, who was tasked with gathering information on Richards’ remarks, his gifts to Moody College, and his history within his company.