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Staff members at East Central University have won five awards for their work from the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association. The highly competitive contest drew 405 entries from most of the state's public and private colleges and universities.

ECU won first place in the Bright Idea category with its "Learn About ECU's New Debit Card and Win $20" promotion. To raise awareness of the new ECU Tiger Card, a debit card, folded fake $20 bills were dropped in hallways and posters were hung around campus during finals week last spring.

The fake bills stirred up excitement when some students thought they had found $20. Several students, thinking the bills were real, turned them in to lost and found. More than 350 students registered online during the first weeks of the promotion for the chance to win a real $20 bill.

The award went to the Communications and Marketing Department's Amy Ford, Jill Frye, Susan Ingram, Gina Smith and Ryan Wetherill.

Ford, ECU director of communications and marketing, also was elected president of OCPRA for the 2010-11 year.

Brian Johnson, sports information coordinator in ECU's Athletic Department, won third place for his story, "ECU softball senior reaches postseason for first, only time," honoring the team's only senior player, second baseman Hillary Hughes.

ECU webmaster Ryan Wetherill won third place in Web Design. With input from faculty, staff and students, he redesigned ECU's website,, to have a more modern and useful format as well as a theme aligned with other promotional materials.

Jill Frye, assistant director of communications and marketing, won second place in Newswriting for "Overflow Crowd Hears Whitten, Panel Discuss Effects of Addictions." The story reported on Reggie Whitten's presentation at ECU about the impact of his adult son's addictions and death on his family, his struggles to understand why his son could not quit and his efforts to educate people about how certain substances change brain chemistry.

Frye also won an honorable mention award for a feature story under 1,000 words. "Marriage Proposal During Centennial Show Surprises Performer" told of the on-stage proposal to student Phoebe Price during the grand opening production in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center and the Ataloa Theatre. The engagement was the "talk of the town" because the audience was unsure whether it was real or part of the script.

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