Letter from the President: Remember Tom Duke, APR
I remember the first time I ever met Tom Duke. It was at a PRSA mixer in downtown Akron. The event was held at the Barley House, a place typically reserved for University of Akron coeds and minor league baseball fans who eat lots of fried food watching ESPN on big screens.
That night, through a sea of 20-somethings, I caught a glimpse of a man dressed in a suit and wearing the warmest smile I'd seen. He was at ease, as were all those who interacted with him, myself included. That's just the kind of guy Tom was.
I got to know Tom better over the years both through Akron PRSA and my work at Akron Community Foundation. What quickly became apparent was that Tom lived to give back. He gave sage advice. He gave compliments. He shared what he had learned in his 50-plus-year career through Akron SCORE, a group of retired executives and volunteer counselors who position the next generation of entrepreneurs and business owners to succeed.
That was Tom. Always paying it forward.
As Tom's fellow PRSA College of Fellows member Julie Fix said so beautifully, Tom was a man of many firsts: PRSA Akron's first president. B.F. Goodrich's first community and public affairs manager. He began the first community relations program for the Cooper-Bessemer Corporation. He was the first director of public relations at Jackson-Dawson Marketing Solutions, where he built a successful division that won the Michelin account. Tom was South Carolina's Distinguished Public Relations Practitioner, an honor that was renamed for him in 2007.
Those are impressive firsts, for sure, but what I will always remember about Tom is that friendly guy at a sports bar (yes, in a suit) encouraging young people like me to think big. If we can be half the encourager Tom was, I'd say our future is a bright one.
President, Akron Area PRSA