Three Questions for Ben Deutsch ’85

Ben Deutsch holding a sign reading 'one night', with three young men holding signs reading '2190 nights', '1255 nights' and '192 nights'.
SJMC alum Ben Deutsch (second from left) with some of the homeless youth served by Covenant House Georgia. CHGA does a “Sleep Out” event every year where executives sleep on the streets to raise money. The numbers on the cardboard reflect the number of nights each youth has been out on the streets.

Name: Ben Deutsch

Title and Organization: Chair of the Board of Directors, Covenant House Georgia

Graduation Year and Degree: 1985 BA in Journalism

Since retiring as Coca-Cola’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication alum Ben Deutsch has dedicated himself to giving back to others, with a special focus on helping set up younger generations for success. Deutsch has been closely involved with the SJMC, from serving on the Board of Visitors and teaching summer classes to establishing a scholarship supporting students taking non- or low-paying summer internships.

In addition to his work with the J-School, Deutsch has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including Covenant House Georgia (CHGA), a shelter and service provider for homeless and trafficked youth in Metro Atlanta. Having served as a board member since 2013, he has recently been named Chair of the Board of Directors of CHGA. We caught up with him to learn more about the work he’s doing.

When it comes to this new role, what are you most excited about? 

With 3,300 youth on the streets of Atlanta every night, the need for our services has never been more critical. Later this fall, we’ll be breaking ground on a multi-million dollar project that will support the growth of our crisis shelter and a new on-site transitional housing facility. I’m fortunate to work alongside our amazing board, and the finest, most selfless leadership team and staff around. Most importantly, I’m inspired by the courageous and brave youth who come to Covenant House Georgia to overcome homelessness and build a new pathway to living their hopes and dreams.

Ben Deutsch standing with a group of students in front of a monitor that reads "J475 Corporate Communication"
SJMC alum Ben Deutsch poses with students during his summer 2019 course on strategic communications.

What’s the best advice you have for a J-School student who wants to do what you do? 

From a professional career perspective, my advice is simple: 1) work hard; 2) learn how businesses operate; 3) be curious, listen and ask good questions; 4) be nice to others, and; 5) always be guided by doing the right thing.

When it comes to serving others, find your passion and throw yourself into it. The best way to do that is to involve yourself in a cause or organization that has impacted you personally, maybe through a family member or friend. I got involved with Special Olympics because I had a brother who was Down syndrome. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to help young people, with a focus on those who are disadvantaged or often overlooked. My only regret was not starting sooner. You will find that you get way more in return than what you give.

What is your favorite J-School memory?

My favorite class was News Reporting and Editing, mainly because it was taught by one of my favorite professors, Jim Baughman. Professor Baughman had an immeasurable impact on me and so many others. He connected with us through his dry, acerbic wit, great sense of humor, and genuine affection for his students. As a journalism student, he taught me the value of being curious, and that asking great questions is often times harder than giving good answers. Though he sadly passed away in 2016, his spirit, energy and passion live on through the J-School’s amazing faculty and staff, many of whom worked with Jim over the years.