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In Memoriam: Donald (Don) Kirchoffner, APR, Fellow PRSA

January 10, 2013

Donald (Don) Kirchoffner, APR, Fellow PRSA, a past member of the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Directors, died on Jan. 10 in Boulder Colo., after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 68.

Kirchoffner was an accomplished executive known for creating and implementing strategic communications that proactively addressed a broad array of challenges with innovation, foresight and action. He was a driving force behind a number of high-profile media campaigns, crisis management situations and public outreach programs — both in the United States and overseas.  

Most recently, Kirchoffner was a senior communications consultant at Don Kirchoffner & Associates in Broomfield, Colo. He served on PRSA’s Board of Directors in 2009-10. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the PRSA Foundation.

“Anyone who worked with Don came away impressed and changed by his passion, his commitment to his work and his clients, and his strong belief in ethical conduct,” said Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, the Society’s 2013 chair and CEO. “He was outspoken in support of his beliefs, which were born out of decades of service to the country and profession he loved. We all benefited from his contributions.”

A distinguished career

Following a distinguished 26-year career with the United States Army, Kirchoffner completed his military service as chief of media relations for the Department of the Army with the rank of Colonel. Kirchoffner was also chairman of the Military Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh from 1984 to 1988.

During his military career, Kirchoffner was the first public affairs officer on the ground following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces and served as the director of communication for Kurdish Relief Operations in Northern Iraq following the war. In addition, he was the director of communications for three hostage release operations and handled Department of Defense efforts during the Los Angeles Riots. During the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Kirchoffner was very visible as European Command's deputy public affairs officer.

Kirchoffner also served as the senior director of communications for all federal relief efforts during Hurricane Andrew and supervised more than 40 federal, military and nonprofit public affairs personnel.

He was previously the director of communications for the Biomedical Services Division of the American Red Cross. In this capacity, he directed all communications activities for 38 member blood centers across the United States. He also served as vice president of communications with Commonwealth Edison in Chicago, which eventually became known as Exelon following a merger with Philadelphia Electric, forming the largest utility in the country.

He was a past president of PRSA’s Chicago Chapter. Kirchoffner was also a member of the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame and the Arthur Page Society. In addition, he served as a board member of the Army Public Affairs Alumni Association. The Association will recognize him with the Joe Galloway Lifetime Achievement Award for his many contributions in improving the professionalism of the career field and his active role as a mentor to many Army PR professionals.

In 2006, the Chicago Chapter awarded Kirchoffner the Chicago Public Relations Professional of the Year. In 2009, the Colorado Chapter honored Kirchoffner with the Swede Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kirchoffner graduated from St. John’s University in 1966. He also held a master’s in public administration from the University of Georgia.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, daughters Megan and Jill, son Matt and four grandchildren.

Memorial services are pending.

Ed Note: We encourage readers to use the comments section (by clicking the "View Comments" link below) to share your favorite memories about Don and pay tribute to his life.


Karen Bergh says:

So sorry to hear of Don's passing. He will be missed.

Jan. 10, 2013

Rendall P. Ayers, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Don was a true leader in every way possible.

Jan. 10, 2013

Megan Kucia says:

Col. Kirchoffner will be sorely missed.

Jan. 10, 2013

Catherine Huggins says:

My heart aches for Don's family, friends and colleagues. He was one of the good ones in our industry. A dedicated board member, talented consultant and incredible individual. I enjoyed working with him and will never forget his courage and humor in battling cancer. Rest in peace my friend.

Jan. 10, 2013

Geary Morris says:

Don was a great mentor to me as I was studying for my APR. Heaven welcomed a good one today!

Jan. 10, 2013

Philip Tate says:

Don Kirschoffner served his family, clients, PRSA and the USA with great distinction. The Colonel will be missed by the many people he influenced over the years.

Jan. 11, 2013

Camille Prindle says:

Our prayers are with your family.

Jan. 11, 2013

Sarah Rasmussen, APR, LEED AP says:

This is very sad to hear. All of us in PRSA Colorado send our thoughts to his family and loved ones.

Jan. 11, 2013

Gordon Peterson says:

RIP ... a great soldier and PA professional. I'll never forget my time with Don when I reported to EUCOM in 1991 as director of public affairs. During the time we had to turn over, I took good notes when we reviewed his lessons learned in the Gulf War and Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq. I folded a number of his recommendations into a request for the CINC to fund a "JIB in a Box" suitable for operational deployments. It was ready to go when we deployed a JTF with JIB and sub-JIBs during humanitarian operations in Rwanda in July 1994. Thank you, Don. Best, Gordo

Jan. 11, 2013

Sam Waltz, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

RIP Colonel, as Philip calls him. He indeed was a fine man, which is the greatest thing anyone can say about another person. Indeed, as Maria recalls of our mutual friend / colleague Pat Jackson, Don was a "servant leader" in the finest sense of the word. I have fond memories of Don, given both our shared Vietnam-era military experience as well as our Corporate experience, given discussions that developed at PRSA International Conferences, where Don and I became "PRSA friends," a term that so many of us share. Don was a judge in the 2000 Silver Anvils when a project which I'd led -- "Vindication of the Scapegoated 1941 Pearl Harbor Commanders Admiral Kimmel & General Short " was awarded the Silver Anvil - Public Affairs - NonProfits. Don had chaired the judging in that category, we had not known each other previously, but he sought me out, we talked at length, and our relationship grew from there. Respect often takes time to earn, but one observation I'd offer is that Don was the kind of man who could earn your respect easily. He was honorable, transparent, ethical and, to repeat myself, a fine man!

Jan. 11, 2013

Deborah Silverman, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA says:

I had the privilege of serving on the PRSA Board of Directors in 2009 and 2010 with Don. He displayed a dedication to the public relations profession and desire to "give back" to the profession through his service to PRSA, and he will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences and sympathies go to his family and friends.

Jan. 11, 2013

Kathy Skipper says:

The first time I met Don Kirchoffner (which he didn't remember) was as a go-getter Army military police officer (his alternate speciality vice public affaiars). He was confident and competent and didn't shy away from tackling anything. Many years later our paths crossed again when I entered the public affairs field as an Army civilian and he had made it up the ranks there as well. Again, we "danced" when he entered the Centers for Disease Control and prevention as a consultant to the then director, Dr. Julie Gerberding. Don was a master at navigting the political waters, a genuine and "fun to be with" colleague, and an all around good guy. I am sorry his last time was so hard bud know that he's in a good place on the other side. My best regards to his family. Kathy Skipper (former DOD employee, retired federal employee from CDC)

Jan. 11, 2013

Ray Crockett says:

I've known and respected Don Kirchoffner since our paths crossed in the service. He was a big help to me as I made my transition to the civilian world, and I know always has given his time and knowledge as a "super mentor." Time for Taps, Don. We'll miss you.

Jan. 11, 2013

Marisa Vallbona, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Don was an example to all of us that his service to our country, PRSA and fellow man was never about "What's in it for me?" but instead, "How can I serve you?" My thoughts and prayers are with his family for their comfort during this time. He will be missed.

Jan. 11, 2013

Regina Hockycko says:

Tom and I extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family, Elaine.

Jan. 12, 2013

Joan Capelin, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

What an elegant, lovely man! I recall his bravely coming to the Washington, DC conference to the PRSA College of Fellows dinner; he was already a physical shadow of himself but still smiling. Grace, courage ... he surely inspired all who knew him.

Jan. 13, 2013

Steve Knipstein says:

Don was a true leader and a strong voice for our profession. I will remember his generosity and his interest in serving as a role model for those who wanted to make a career in our profession. Heart felt thoughts and prayers to the entire Kirchoffner family. He will be missed and remembered!

Jan. 14, 2013

Pete Webb says:

We had the priviledge of adding Don to our team as a senior consultant, and used his expertise in crisis planning and crisis management. I'll never forget his directness, the way he expressed himself, and his wry sense of humor. When we used Don on a crisis exercise for a national biomedical client, the CEO and his very seasoned staff sat enthralled as Don diplomatically, but very effectively, pointed out the errors of their ways. In past years when we'd get together for lunch Don always would lead me out to get reaquainted his his "driver," Elaine, who'd roll her eyes and say, "Get in." It's clear our profession has lost a figure who is admired and eminently respected.

Jan. 15, 2013

Jennifer Dulles says:

So sorry to hear this news. Prayers to his family.

Jan. 15, 2013

Dr. Joe Trahan,APR,Fellow PRSA says:

I had the honor and privilege of calling Don my friend and mentor since 1992 when I met him in Miami when my US Army Reserve Public Affairs unit deployed in support of Hurricane Andrew Relief. He always impressed me with his professionalism,caring, passion,drive for excellence and the respect he gave to every person he met in his wonderful life! I will miss my friend and mentor. My heart and prayers go out to Don's family. Col. Don I salute you Sir! The good Lord now has a first class Public Affairs to advise him.

Jan. 17, 2013

Ron Meek says:

Elaine & Family, We are so sorry to have heard of Don's passing...we still remember the good times at Ft. Gordon with you two. Take care, Ron & Pam Meek

Jan. 18, 2013

Oona Powell says:

I am very sorry to hear of his passing. He was a great guy, so easy to talk to and so wise.

Nov. 20, 2013

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