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In Memoriam: PR legend Daniel J. Edelman, APR, Fellow PRSA, 92

January 15, 2013

Daniel J. Edelman, APR, Fellow PRSA, the distinguished founder of what would become the world’s largest independent public relations agency, died this morning in Chicago of heart failure. He was 92.

He founded Daniel J. Edelman, Inc. in Chicago in 1952, and helped to grow the company into the world’s largest privately held independent firm with 66 offices worldwide and more than 4,500 employees. He retired in 1996.

“We’ve lost a true icon,” said Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA’s 2013 chair and CEO. “Dan Edelman helped shape the public relations profession as we know it today. For more than 50 years, he demonstrated his commitment to public relations, inspiring generation after generation of practitioners. We are all grateful for his passion and creativity through the years.

“On behalf of PRSA, I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Edelman family,” Nall said.

Edelman began his career as a reporter in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before he was drafted during World War II, where he received four battle stars and the Commendation Medal. He later became a news writer for CBS. He then served as PR director for the Toni division of Gillette, where he created the first-ever product media tour. 

His accolades include: The PRSA Gold Anvil Award, the first-ever Outstanding Achievement Award presented by the China International Public Relations Association, the Lion of Finland, the PRSA Lifetime Achievement Award and the PR Seminar Group Award for Distinguished Service. He joined PRSA in 1950, and was a longstanding member of the Chicago Chapter.

"On behalf of PRSA Chicago, our hearts go out to the Edelman family," said Chapter President Abby Lovett. "Without question, his vision shaped the industry and this city; his legacy will continue to have a profound impact on all PR professionals – both here and abroad. He will truly be missed."

Many past and present Edelman employees took to Twitter this morning to remember their founder. “A real testament's to Dan Edelman's extraordinary legacy is the kindness shown by former staff & competitors as they acknowledge his loss,” wrote Stephen Lock, CEO of the Daniel J. Edelman businesses in Indonesia.

There’s a simple tribute on the Edelman website this morning: “There will never be another Dan Edelman — indomitable, ever modest, always resilient, ready for the next challenge. His story inspires us all.”

Edelman was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1920. He graduated from Columbia College and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth; a daughter, Renee; sons Richard and John; and granddaughters Margot, Tory and Amanda.

Richard now serves as the agency’s global chief executive, while Renee is a senior vice president and John is managing director of its global engagement and CSR initiative.

Ed note: Please share your memories of Dan Edelman in the comments section below.


Christian Williams says:

I remember reading about Daniel Edelman in my Intro to Public Relations book during my sophomore year of college, when I was just getting my start. He was listed as one of the pioneers of the industry, but I wouldn't know exactly what that meant until I started practicing the art of public relations myself. Now that I am a professional in the field, I look up to visionaries like Dan who set the standard for those that came after them. He left a lasting legacy in our field, and he will be remembered for years and years to come.

Jan. 15, 2013

Sam Waltz, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

"One of a kind" is the trite and overused phrase, but immediately appropriate, for Dan Edelman who was a fine gentleman, a serious and thoughtful practitioner, a great friend to many in the industry. He was a pioneer who succeeded by, among other things, blending a strategic approach and a strong will. I met Dan for the first time about 1988-89, about 25 years or so ago, when as a young DuPont Company PR exec, the Edelmans acquired a smaller PR firm that happened to be doing business with us at DuPont, where they were interested in developing business, as DuPont expanded its use of agencies in the 1980s. When Richard Edelman learned I planned to be in Chicago for other business, he set up a meeting with Dan at the offices, but Dan expanded it to include breakfast with Ruth and Dan at their North Shore condo. What a great introduction to a great man, both humble and hospitable, which I never forgot. Some 15 years or so later, when I was privileged to head PRSA as its National President / Board Chair, I encountered Dan several times, and he remembered our time together. Dan did not always agree with us as PRSA's volunteer leaders, and he was open and transparent about his views, but he always was respectful of the roles that we volunteered to serve and fill. RIP in Dan Edelman, we'll miss you!

Jan. 16, 2013

Alexander Borisov says:

On behalf of the Russian public relations community and my own family, deepest condolences to Ruth and the Eldelman family. I remember fondly the hospitality extended by Dan and Ruth during my visit to Chicago in 1990 and the friendly and thoughtful advice he gave me me then and at the PRSA conference in Phoenix. It was unselfish pioneers like Dan that help us in Russia adopt the American model as we developed the PR profession in our country. (submitted in behalf of Alexander Borisov by Joe Epley)

Jan. 16, 2013

Judy Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

We had a strategic planning meeting in Chicago in 2005 (the year I was Board Chair) and Dan and his wife Ruth kindly invited me to cocktails at their home. Dan had recently agreed to chair the Betsy Plank Scholarship Campaign and he was very interested in the campaign and what PRSA was doing overall. I was thrilled and honored to accept the invitation. Dan and Ruth were welcoming and gracious; the conversation was extraordinary. Dan told wonderful stories of his career and the agency,made sharp and insightful observations about the current state of the profession, and offered wise counsel. It was an experience that I will always treasure and remember. We have lost a true public relations star and a great gentleman.

Jan. 16, 2013

Catherine Bolton says:

Dan was always raising the bar and level of understanding of what public relations could and would become. When I looked at what Dan and his agency had completed on any given day, I saw what others in our profession would strive to accomplish in the future. I am grateful for all the Edelman's contributed to PRSA and the guidance and care he showed me during my time at PRSA.

Jan. 17, 2013

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