(Abbie was the recipient of the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA, presented at the PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis on Monday. She was unable to attend so I accepted the award on her behalf. Here is the speech she would have given.)
It was 30 years ago this month. I was about to graduate from the journalism program at Arizona State University when I learned about this organization called “PRSSA.” Its members were other kids like me who were going to pursue a career in public relations. Figuring that it couldn’t hurt to check it out, I went to one of their informational meetings.
I quickly joined what I learned was the Public Relations Student Society of America and the rest as they say is history.
Little did I know when I paid my dues and attended a student shadow day that last semester at ASU, that I would be embarking on a relationship with a professional organization that would not only impact my career but my personal life as well.
I was born to volunteer. No seriously. From the time I was a little girl, I have volunteered in some capacity or another. As young kids, my sister and I would go with our parents to their volunteer activities. When I got older, my parents would drop us off at our own activities – singing at senior centers, answering phones in the overnight shift at a telethon, participating in dance-a-thons, bake sales, car washes, you name it.
Upon graduation, I joined the Phoenix chapter of PRSA. And when the chapter president asked for volunteers, it was a sure bet that I would say yes. From serving the Phoenix chapter on committees and its board of directors, to the Western District’s conference co-chair to serving the best section in PRSA, the Counselors Academy, to countless other local and national task forces, panels and speaking engagements, my professional volunteer time has been dedicated to PRSA. And most recently, remembering the importance of that shadow day all those years ago, I am a Champion for PRSSA, under the leadership of past Patrick Jackson award recipient, Gary McCormick.
So who was Patrick Jackson and why was a volunteer service award named for him?
Mr. Jackson founded his agency in 1956 and became one of the most widely known and respected practitioners in the field of public relations. He was president of PRSA and also one of 26 founding members of the College of Fellows.
According to his agency’s website, Mr. Jackson spent most of his career encouraging others to raise up our profession and to contribute to organizations and society in general. He is remembered as a leader who inspired and motivated practitioners to go out, try again, and do better.
PRSA means more to me than just a professional organization. It is the place where I can be among my people, people who know what I do, understand the challenges and work hard every day to do right by our clients and organizations.
And it is the place where I’ve made lifelong friends.
I’m able to do what I do for PRSA because I am surrounded by a spectacular team of people at my agency, HMA Public Relations in Phoenix. Alison Bailin was responsible for coordinating my nomination and accepted the award on my behalf. A special thank you to her for all she does not only for our agency, but her ongoing commitment to PRSA as well.
So in the spirit of Mr. Jackson’s legacy to inspire others and do better, it is indeed my honor to accept this award. Thank you.