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PRSA Remembers Past President Frank W. Wylie, APR, Fellow PRSA

January 2, 2014

Frank Winston Wylie, APR, Fellow PRSA, a longtime distinguished leader in the Society, died in his sleep at his California home on Dec. 16. He was 89.

Wylie was born in New York City on July 3, 1924. He attended Avon Old Farms in Connecticut and Friends Academy on Long Island before entering Harvard with the class of 1946. He interrupted his college years to join the Army for two years. He started in the Signal Corps and ended up in the Office of the Chief of Staff in Washington.

After returning to Harvard to complete his B.S. degree, he joined the Dodge Division of the Chrysler Corporation in 1948. That same year he married Martha Rockwood. They had one child, Deborah Elizabethe Wylie.

He worked in various positions at Dodge/Chrysler for 32 years, rising to director of public relations. He proposed that Dodge get into NASCAR racing to update its public image and became the lead person in that effort, hiring drivers, mechanics, pit crews and working the races on weekends. He was proud that Dodge won the NASCAR Championship in 1968.

During this time he became active in public relations circles, leading PRSA’s Detroit Chapter and eventually becaming president of PRSA in 1978. In 1982 he received the Gold Anvil, PRSA’s highest individual award. He was in the founding group of PRSA members inducted into the College of Fellows.

In 1980 he retired from the auto business and went to California to work in higher education, first as public affairs director for California State University Los Angeles, where he earned a M.A., then as a professor at California State University Long Beach.

He loved teaching, retiring in 1992 as Professor Emeritus and Chair of the Journalism Department. Until the end of his life former students wrote him letters and visited him, thanking him for mentoring them and teaching them important skills that led to their later success. He has two PRSSA Chapters named after him, one at the University of Dayton, and one at Cal State Long Beach.

His first marriage ended in divorce, and he married travel author/writer Judith Babcock in 1984. They enjoyed many years of travel together on assignments, with Frank as photographer.

After retiring from teaching he and Judith moved to their organic apple farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. He was active in the community, on the Bonny Doon School Board, the county’s Affirmative Action Committee, and on the Finance Committee of California Certified Organic Farmers.

There will be a celebration of his life Feb. 15 at his home in Bonny Doon. Wylie had a lifelong passion for trees and planted hundreds on his property and orchards. He hoped to encourage others to plant a tree or to contribute to a tree-centric charity such as the Arbor Day Foundation.


Christina Ragsdale says:

What an incredible role model for us all. Before it was fashionable, he made two careers, one in the corporate world and a second in higher education sharing all he had learned. Condolences to his family.

Jan. 2, 2014

Emma Daugherty says:

Frank Wylie will be forever remembered at Cal State Long Beach for his many contributions, including the rigorous curriculum he developed, the scholarships he generated, the money he raised, the mentoring he gave his students, and the resources he acquired for his faculty. On a personal note, Frank was incredibly generous with his time, an amazing problem solver, and a wonderful colleague. He will be missed.

Jan. 3, 2014

Chuck Werle, APR, Principal, Carolina Image Builders says:

During my two years as president of the Chicago Chapter, Frank Wylie offered and provided his wise counsel in dealing with issues related to our chapter's opposition to the national board's handling of the national president's role in insider trading. With our urging, the board eventually asked for his resignation.

Jan. 12, 2014

Jennifer A. Yee, Ph.D., California State University, Fullerton says:

As my college professor and long-time mentor, Frank Wylie transformed my life. For the past 27 years, he offered wisdom, guidance, and encouragement on work and life. I, along with many of his former students, cherish his memory and will miss his generous mentoring. His example guides my own work as a college faculty member.

Feb. 28, 2014

John L. Bellah says:

I had the pleasure of knowing Frank when I worked at CSULB in 1991. Frank was my "go-to" guy when I was researching information on my first literary project; a book on Chrysler police cars. Frank provided me with a lot of obscure Chrysler Corporation information which made the book a success. Rest-In-Peace, Frank. It was an honor and a pleasure to have known you. John L. Bellah, automotive author, historian, and consultant

March 5, 2014

Anne Bowman, BA Journalism/PR CSULB '88 says:

I just learned of Professor Wylie's passing yesterday in the CSULB Beach magazine. I can truly say that Frank changed the course of my life. His passion for public relations and it's vital role in American business set my educational direction and launched me into the profession that I hold in high esteem. Frank truly understood that theory can only go so far in educating the next generation. It was his experience in the industry that made him such an outstanding educator. Thank you for everything Frank. You were a great man, educator and inspiration.

July 6, 2014

Donna Maurillo says:

I first met Frank when he and Judith came to Santa Cruz following the 1989 earthquake. They were writing about the recovery progress of our city's downtown. I was in the PR business (with the downtown association as a client), so I took them around to the sites. We bonded immediately, and I was delighted when they moved to their farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Frank became a mentor to me, offering several textbooks (which I still use) and plenty of good advice when I had challenging projects. I found him to be thoughtful, introspective, engaging, intelligent, and charming. Together, he and Judith embarked on many trips for her travel writing assignments, including (in his later years) several cruises. I last had breakfast with them a little over a year ago, when I was given his mother's beautiful red velvet coat, which I wear often. Judith said he died exactly the way he wanted... with no tubes, no hospitals, and no agonizing slide. He just went quietly.

Dec. 14, 2014

John Echeveste says:

Frank was an early and avid supporter of diversity in the profession. He was a valued informal adviser when we formed the Hispanic Public Relations Association in 1988. He was a real champion for the cause and always practiced what he preached. He was a true gentleman and Professional in every sense.

July 11, 2015

Melinda Beckett-Maines says:

He touched so many lives and was a champion for his students. He dedicated himself to helping driven students see their potential and rise to it. I'm so fortunate to have known him and thankful he shared his vast expertise from the professional world. On top of that, he was a wonderful person and volunteered with several causes and even built nonprofit PR projects into his courses. He was, and will always be, a PR legend.

Sept. 1, 2015

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