PRSA Houston History

The Public Relations Society of America Houston Chapter was founded in 1950.

The late Ralph Frede, APR, Fellow PRSA, who was on the national PRSA accreditation committee, approached Philip Taggart, APR in 1970 about starting the accreditation program in Texas. Phil, who was working in Dallas at the time, agreed and took the test himself. 

The late Sabra Gill, APR, was the first female president of the organization in 1976. Earliest memories are that PRSA Houston met at the Shamrock Hotel in the Texas Medical Center in the 1980s.

Excalibur Awards

The first Excalibur Awards were presented in 1985 to four winners. The late Will Osterloh, APR, created the competition in 1984 and chose the name,  according to Margot Dimond, APR, 1985 President.  In February 1988, Houston's Mayor Kathy Whitmire spoke at a luncheon held to honor the winners. The event moved to the evening on March 22, 1989, when Hank Moore, APR, chaired the event.  At that function, the late Ralph Frede, APR, presented the Outstanding Practitioner Award to Stanford A. Wallace, APR, (now deceased). The late Dan Ammerman was the master of ceremonies for this event, which featured an international speaker, musical entertainment and door prizes. Moore chaired the event for several years and greatly expanded the categories to turn it into one of the Chapter’s greatest revenue producers.  The first CEO Communicator of the Year Award was presented to Houston's Mayor Bill White and County Judge Robert Eckels in June 1996, recognizing their efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Houston's Mayor Annise Parker won the Award in 2012.

Southwest Communicators Conference and Exhibition

PRSA Houston was one of the organizers of the Southwest Communicators Conference and Exhibition held March 8, 1986, at the Westin Galleria.  The Saturday event with a Friday night reception was chaired by George Nelson, APR, from PRSA Houston and by Michael Reynolds, ABC, APR, from the International Association of Business Communicators Houston Chapter. but it was also sponsored by American Marketing Association, American Society of Magazine Photographers, Art Directors Club, Association for Multi-Image, Business and Professional Advertising Association, Houston Advertising Federation, Houston Production Managers Association, International Television Association, National Investor Relations Institute, Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, Society of Professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi, and Texas Public Relations Association.  It featured three tracks: Practitioner, Technical and Management to attract three levels of practitioners.  The keynote was Robert M. Berzok, assistant director of corporate communications for Union Carbide Corp. on their Bhopal crisis.

Special Interest Groups Formed

George Nelson, APR, and Guy Brown, II, APR, developed the concept of Special Interest Groups in the late 1980s and they included Media, Environmental and Young Practitioners.  Later, SIGS were added for Nonprofit, Entrepreneurs and Health Care. By the late 1980’s the Chapter had grown and volunteers could no longer handle event registrations. So, Jo Hunt was hired to take phone registrations for $25/month.

Media Day Created

The first Media Day was held on Sept. 11, 1989, and featured 19 media leaders. It was chaired by Paula Ruth, APR, who also chaired the event in 1990 at the Doubletree Hotel Post Oak. Eydie Pengelly, APR, chaired the event in 1991 at the Majestic Metro. Media Day was one of the first events held at the then newly remodeled, historical movie theatre.

Scholarships Launched

William (Bill) Zander won the first Stan Wallace Scholarship in 1989, following a funding announcement at the March 1989 Excalibur Awards and an April 1989 meeting of the PRSA Houston Scholarship Committee.  The scholarship was funded for ten years by Panhandle Eastern-Duke Energy until 1998 to honor Mr. Wallace, who retired from Panhandle Eastern in 1988 and passed away the following year.

The 1990's

PRSA Houston added Special Interest Groups in International, Counselors, Nonprofit and Professional Services in 1991 and Young Professionals changed its name to NuPros. PRSA Houston met at the Junior League for most of the 1990s.

Guy Brown II, APR, was elected a director-at-large to PRSA’s national board, only the second person to do that in PRSA Houston history. As Chapter services expanded, Wilson Lyle was hired, beginning in January 1992, to oversee the membership database and also do post card mailings.

The Chapter hosted the Southwest District Leadership Conference in January 1992. PRSA Houston was recognized in 1992 with a National Banner Award for best chapters. (This program has since ended.)

The chapter launched its first website in 1996. The first Legacy Award was presented to James W. Hart, Jr.on Dec. 9, 1998.  Mr. Hart retired from Duke Energy on March 1, 1998.  At that time he was a member of the PRSA Houston Board of Directors as the only non-accredited board member following a bylaws change at the time.

PRSA Houston hosted the Southwest District Conference in 1999 under the leadership of Jack Barnett, APR, and Melissa Adams. The Chapter finished 1999 with 523 members, the ninth largest nationally.

The last paper Prolog was in December 1999 after a membership survey done in 1998 recommended moving to email communications. The last printed directory was for 2000.

The 2000's

In 2001, under the leadership of PRSA Houston President Ben Wheatley, APR, ABC, and the late Sabra Gill, APR, the Public Relations Foundation of Houston (PRFH) was established as a fund within the Greater Houston Community Foundation. The PRFH began awarding college scholarships in 2006, and the annual award of $3,000 has become one of the largest scholarships awarded by the profession in the United States.

The chapter hired its first contract administrator in January 2004 to consolidate the work being done by a separate bookkeeper and reservations service and professionalize the operations. PRSA Houston re-launched its New Professionals group, led by Kelly Papinchak (George), who went on to become  National New Professionals President and earned her accreditation.

In 2004, Media Day became PR Day, a reflection that members do more than media relations in an event chaired by Terri Larson before she was president or accredited. PRSA Houston also redid its website in 2004 and moved from the City Club to the Courtyard on Saint James for monthly meetings. We moved to the Briar Club in January 2008.

Priscilla Tinsley was the first African-American president of PRSA Houston in 2008. The Chapter received an award in 2009 for greatest growth in 2008 at 9.3% for an extra large chapter with over 400 members based on the number of national members in our service area. At that point our two year growth was 9.8%.

The 2010's

We hosted a national accreditation jump start program in 2010-2013, organized by Kelly George, APR.

We hosted our last luncheon at the Briar Club in May 2013, featuring Judge Ed Emmett, and moved to the Houston Racquet Club in July 2013 when speaker was Chris Canetti of the Houston Dynamo. 

Chapter administration changed in October 2013 as membership reached 539 in the Houston area with 491 being PRSA Houston members.

The present website went live in December 2018.

Click here to view past presidents.

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