Alumni honored for service

Dr. J. Robert Eshleman

Dr. J. Robert Eshleman, 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award

The Alumni Association of Eastern Mennonite University honored two of its graduates Sunday, Oct. 11, for their work in reflecting the school's vision, mission and values.

Anthony Pratkanis, 52, a 1979 EMU graduate with majors in psychology, sociology and social work, received EMU's 2009 "alumnus of the year" award during the Sunday morning worship service of homecoming and family weekend.

The award is presented annual to a graduate who has been recognized for significant achievement in their profession, community or church.

J. Robert Eshleman, 74, of Midlothian, Va., was presented the "distinguished service award" for 2009 for "demonstrating in notable ways the Christian service and peacemaking emphasis of the university." Dr. Eshleman, a pre-med major, left EMU in 1956 after three years of study when he was accepted early into dental school at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV).

Dr. Pratkanis has been a professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz since 1987, where he has been cited for teaching excellence. He earned a PhD in social psychology from Ohio State University in 1984 and began his career in the business school at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he taught popular courses in advertising and consumer behavior.

Pratkanis co-authored with Elliot Aronson a best-selling book, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion (Holt Paperbacks, revised edition, 2001), a thorough overview of how individuals and the mass media use devious persuasive techniques to manipulate others. He has been cited or has been interviewed in the mass media on numerous occasions and his research has been translated into 10 languages.

Pratkanis' research has investigated such topics as the delayed effects of persuasion, attitudes and memory, groupthink, affirmative action, subliminal persuasion, mass communications, source credibility and persuasion and democracy. His research has been translated into 10 languages.

Over the last 10 years, Pratkanis has worked with nationwide organizations, various civic groups and law enforcement agencies on strategies for preventing economic fraud crimes. He received a Telly Award in 2002 for his work as a scientific consultant on AARP's video, "Weapons of Fraud." He has testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about what can be done to prevent economic fraud crimes.

Pratkanis has also served as an expert witness in court cases, including on behalf of the State of Oregon in their case against Publisher's Clearing House and the State of California in their cases against MCI/Worldcom and Cingular Wireless.

At the beginning of this year, he was called by the State of Vermont to testify in their case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which made the claim that their Eclipse cigarettes were a "safer way to smoke." The verdict in this case is still pending.

He has also served as a consultant on persuasion and influence to two U.S. Presidential campaigns, various ballot races and to government agencies on countering the propaganda of terrorists and dictators and on reducing conflict in war zones.

Concerning his undergraduate days, Pratkanis said, "I received an outstanding education at EMC, as we called it back then, from some very dedicated teachers. That education has served me well over the last 30 years."

Pratkanis is married to Marlene Turner Pratkanis and they have a son, Tony Turner Pratkanis.

J. Robert Eshleman, Distinguished Service Award When Dr. Eshleman entered dental school at MCV, he said he felt "very insecure among all these guys with degrees from large universities. I asked Rosalie (Hartman) if she would still marry me if I flunked out of dental school. She said, 'Yes, but you won't flunk out.'"

Eshleman worked so hard that he finished the year number one in his class. The summer of 1957 he and Rosalie, a graduate of the nursing school at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, married.

From his days as a fearful student, Eshleman rose to serve as chair of the restorative dentistry department from 1983 to 1992.

Today he is in his 50th year of teaching at MCV, where his advice and counsel is sought by clinical students who saw that he received the Lifetime Service Award there for "outstanding dedication and student support." He has done research in bonded fixed bridgework, published articles in dental literature on a wide variety of subjects, given numerous continuing education courses and volunteered clinical time, including taking a dental mission trip to Guyana.

In 2006, he received MCV's Dr. James H. Revere's "Outstanding Service Award." The next year, he was elected to MCV's Medallion Society, "the highest honor the School of Dentistry bestows on its friends and alumni," according to an MCV statement.

The Eshlemans are the parents of Curtis Eshleman of Lynchburg, Va., and Lee Eshleman, EMU class of 1986, who is deceased.