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Donald G. ​Padilla Community Excellence Award

Past recipients of the Donald G. Padilla Community Excellence Award have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to numerous charitable organizations. They also share a common trait: They inspire each of us to give back and use or talents for the betterment of others. (Please note that the summaries are from the year in which they received the award.)


2024 – Ryan May


2023 – Candee Wolf, APR, Founder and Principal at Wolf Olson Communications

From her earliest days as a public relations professional, Candee Wolf has been committed to advancing the field of public relations. She is a long-standing PRSA member, joining in 1999 and quickly thereafter earning her APR in 2003. Candee is an award-winning PR professional whose deep dedication to Minnesota PRSA, the public relations field and the future of the profession are worthy of this high honor.

Long-Term Commitment to PRSA: Board Leadership and Beyond

During her tenure as a member, Candee has held multiple leadership positions: Classics Committee (2000-2004, including roles as vice chair and chair), and on the Minnesota PRSA Board from 2005-2011, serving as the chapter president in 2010.

While serving as chapter president for many is a capstone for many, Candee returned to the Minnesota PRSA Board to serve as the ethics officer (2021-2023) and in 2022 volunteered to take on the monumental task of leading the PRSA Midwest District Conference.

Eva Keiser, APR, Minnesota PRSA Chapter President (2018) and Midwest District Chair (2022), writes of Candee’s service to PRSA:

“Candee was instrumental in some of the chapter’s largest and most successful events.  During my presidency, I sought counsel and help from Candee on numerous occasions and my term was better for her involvement.

Then, when most would drift away after serving on the board, Candee stayed engaged and volunteered to serve as the chapter’s ethics chair. In this role, I found myself seeking her sage counsel on numerous occasions. Serving as an “on counsel” type role is another indicator of her commitment to the profession and organization.

But even a greater sign of her commitment was that she raised her hand to co-chair the Midwest District Conference in 2022, a role she knew was vital to the financial stability of Minnesota PRSA. And thanks to her leadership, the chapter is stronger and more alive than before. Having worked closely with her on the conference, I know firsthand the amount of work and strategic counsel that was involved. She engaged members from all levels of the profession and created a conference that reflected the diversity of our community. The conference could not have been done without her.”

Additional Professional Leadership

In 2015, Candee joined the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST, supporting the organization both in a client-service relationship and as an active volunteer, serving on two committees, the Strategic Growth and Marketing Committee (2015-Present) and the Forum Committee (the TRUST’s signature event), (2015-2020; 2023).

Two past TRUST presidents share words about the leadership she has brought forth:

Allison O’Connor, TRUST President (2022), wrote:

“Candee has ensured our communications and marketing stay true to our brand, mission and vision and align our external projection to [our] core values. Candee has worked tirelessly with our team as we have evolved and [we] are grateful for her contributions and continued dedication to advancing women in leadership in the Twin Cities community.”

Monica Engel, TRUST President (2019), said of Candee:

“Candee is a professional, caring and strong businesswoman who makes a difference in the work and the lives she touches along the way. Candee has a passion for helping support women leaders and women in healthcare. We have worked closely over the years, [including] a special project that included a re-creation of our work over the past 40 years. Candee takes the time to understand our members [and has] so much pride in her work. [She goes] above and beyond in serving others.”

Candee was also an active member of Minnesota Women in Marketing & Communications (now defunct); including serving as president 2017-18 and on the Board of Directors 2016-2017. During her membership, Candee developed their mentoring program and received the Volunteer of the Year award for those efforts.

She is also a past member of the Minnesota Health Strategy and Communications Network (MHSCN) and has been a member of the informal “Solo PR Minnesota” group since 2015.

At the beginning of her career (late ‘90s), Candee served on the board for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America– Minnesota chapter for three years, leading marketing efforts, including newsletter creation and coordination of their signature fundraising event. Of this service Candee said, “It was a great way to give back to a community I’m a part of (I have Crohn’s disease), while also building my communications and marketing experience.”

Giving Back for the Future of the Profession

Candee has also kept an eye on the importance of preparing students seeking to join the public relations field. To this end, Candee has participated in the PRSA North Student Development Day on multiple occasions and has served as a guest speaker for several college courses, including being sought out for her expertise on ethics.

Of her multiple—and ongoing—speaking engagements on PR and Ethics for a Metro State University PR class co-taught by Rose McKinney, APR, Fellow PRSA, Minnesota PRSA chapter president (2007) Greg Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA, Minnesota PRSA President (2019), Rose writes:

“When Greg and I first approached Candee to speak with our Metro State students about ethics, she told us she was new in the chapter officer role; she was being humble, of course. Candee not only created a presentation that includes the PRSA Code of Ethics but made it relatable and approachable by including her own scenarios - situations she has encountered during her career. Students, even in a Zoom environment, immediately connect with the content and chime in with questions. Instead of a presentation, it is a conversation, and whether a class of 24 students or a class of six students, Candee reaches out to ensure each student participates. Following her presentations, students always comment on how inclusive she made them feel and how they admire her vulnerability in sharing real-life scenarios.”  


Candee has received the following industry awards: MN PRSA Classics: integrated communications, publications, marketing; Quality Improvement Project of the Year: CaringBridge introduction at North Memorial Health; ARC: annual report; Web: web communication, site design; MHSCN Beacon: communications; Minnesota Women in Marketing & Communications: Volunteer of the Year


2022 – Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR 

The 2022 Padilla Award recipient is Marsha Pitts-Phillips, APR. She has demonstrated outstanding leadership and has made invaluable contributions to the public relations profession and to the mission of PRSA. In her drive to improve the community, Pitts-Phillips provides invaluable perspectives on diversity, equity and inclusion. A PRSA member since 2006, Pitts-Phillips immediately engaged with the chapter, first serving on the Programming Committee. Pitts-Phillips is an accomplished communication leader whose career has included broadcast journalism, nonprofit PR leadership, strategic consultation and academia. She is currently the President and Founder of MRPP & Associates Communications, LLC. Before establishing her own firm, Pitts-Phillips spent several years leading public relations at Greater Twin Cities United Way. Her multifaceted career includes anchoring, reporting and producing television news, as well as producer and host of a weekly public affairs program.

A few of the numerous career highlights for Pitts-Phillips include:

  • Communications team member for the recent historic effort to establish the first Black-owned bank in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota, First Independence Bank.
  • Collaborating on public relations for the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl LVII Gospel Celebration, which aired on BET.
  • Leading communication for Minnesota Hunger Initiative’s annual Thanksgiving Day Walk to End Hunger.
  • Providing crisis communication expertise in the aftermath of the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
  • Moderating numerous high-profile events, including a 2018 Minnesota gubernatorial town hall.
  • Anchoring and producing television news, as well as a producer/host of a weekly public affairs program

Pitts-Phillips shares her experience and expertise with the next generation of PR professionals; she has been an adjunct faculty member at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication (HSJMC) at the University of Minnesota and at the University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business. She continues as a HSJMC Distinguished Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, a position to which she was first appointed in 2019. In this role, Pitts-Phillips partners with faculty to integrate inclusion, equity and diversity in their courses.

Awards and Honors

  • 2020 recipient of the PRSA D. Park Gibson Pioneer Award, which recognizes a PR professional who has helped expand awareness of PR with multicultural communities
  • October 2021 keynote speaker at the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators Virtual Fall Conference

PRSA Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion
Pitts-Phillips believes in collaboration and is deeply committed to diversity, inclusion and cultural awareness in communication. A frequent speaker and writer on these subjects, her expertise is highly regarded both in the community and throughout the industry. As Minnesota PRSA’s first Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Pitts-Phillips focused on developing programs, initiatives and partnerships aimed at greater inclusion and understanding among chapter members and those in the local community of practice. She believes diversity and inclusion are business imperatives that should be woven into the fabric of, and reflected by, every professional entity.

Key accomplishments Pitts-Phillips has led both in her Officer role and beforehand as a volunteer include:

  • The establishment of a Minnesota D&I Community Advisory Council
  • Committee Chair for a “Communicating Across Cultures” panel discussion
  • Leading the effort to organize and moderate a panel of communication leaders following the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castille, “Navigating Public Relations and the Media in Racially Charged Times”
  • Securing Minnesota’s first governor-appointed Chief Inclusion Officer James Burroughs, for chapter-sponsored events in 2017 and 2020. Burroughs currently serves as Children’s Minnesota Vice President, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer
  • Co-chaired with IABC for the 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Forum “Empowering Conversations: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”
  • Panel Moderator for “Understanding Cultural Nuances in Communication”
  • Planning and leading a forum focused on helping communicators create change through diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Participating in a panel discussion about “The Intersection of Ethics and Diversity and Inclusion”
  • Panelist for the June 2020 HSJMC-Minnesota PRSA post-George Floyd killing “Ethical Public Relations, Press Conferences, and Public Engagement During Crisis”
  • Organized/Participant on 2021 PRSA ICON panel, “Your Society at Work: Diversity & Inclusion Tools, Tips, and Tricks to Create YOUR chapter’s D&I Success Story”

Pitts-Phillips has relinquished her role as the chapter’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer to serve as secretary/treasurer in 2022. She does, however, still serve on the National PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee and was recently appointed as co-vice chair.

Community Contributions
Pitts-Phillips believes in giving back and paying it forward. She serves as a mentor to high school students affiliated with Three-Sixty Journalism, a nonprofit program serving youth interested in multimedia storytelling. She serves on the Leadership Advisory Council (LAC) for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. Pitts-Phillips is a Board member for Prepare + Prosper, a nonprofit that helps low-to-moderate-income people build financial well-being through free tax preparation and financial services and serves on the DEI Committee. Pitts-Phillips is an active member of and volunteer for the National Black Public Relations Society; the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Media-Related Members Task Force and its local affiliate, the Twin Cities Black Journalists. In 2020 and 2021, she facilitated panels at the national convention’s Leadership Academy: “How to Breakthrough to Become a News Director or General Manager.” Pitts-Phillips is an ordained minister and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Pitts-Phillips continues to serve as a volunteer speaker for public relations classes at Metro State University and makes herself available to mentor and volunteers to be interviewed by college students for various assignments.


2021 – Eva Keiser, APR 

Eva Keiser is a tireless contributor to her communities. Each is better for her having been involved. When Eva finds a cause or an organization she is passionate about, she digs in. Using her extensive management, strategic analysis, public relations and promotion skills, she gives 100 percent, and then a bit more. And she sustains her contributions over time. Eva is active professionally teaching at the University of Minnesota and serving Minnesota PRSA. Her personal volunteering includes supporting youth lacrosse and establishing a Minnesota-based B2B marketing resource. Eva is a quiet leader; she often channels her solid ideas and guiding opinions through others as persistently as necessary to achieve results. Rather than seeking the spotlight, she rolls up her sleeves, inspires others and makes things happen. Four groups demonstrate Eva’s commitments.

At the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Eva directly prepares the next generation of public relations professionals. Eva began adjunct teaching full time in 2009 and has continued in that role to the present, adjusting her commitment to the public relations enrollment and its needs. She works with undergraduate students from entry level through capstone project work. Grounding students in the principles of public relations and communications prepares them to enter the field ready to advance our profession and serve clients. Some semesters, her students take on a real-life “client” and develop a public relations plan to help resolve a specific issue, providing students with hands-on experience that helps them transition into the world of work. Eva is firm, but compassionate with students, ensuring they are realistic about public relations and the important role it has in business and industry; the role in achieving an organization’s strategic goals (whether for-profit, civic or non-profit groups). She has touched the lives and careers of many current new professionals.

Eva’s commitment to Minnesota PRSA spans several decades – whenever and wherever the chapter needed her help, Eva stepped forward: from committee work, to working on and leading committees, judging awards and nominations, speaking at student events, participating in pro-Am day, sitting on APR panels and the list goes on. When I first met her, she was editor of our PRSA Today print newsletter, which she says was one of her most fulfilling chapter roles. Eva served on the Board of Directors 2012 to 2019: Director, Secretary, Treasurer, President-Elect, President, Immediate Past President, and National Assembly Delegate. She also refurbished the website to make it more relevant and more easily searchable, all to members’ benefit. As so much of what she’s done for our chapter, this web redo was a great example of Eva having the vision, enlisting support for the project and then doing the bulk of the work. As she served on the chapter board of directors in the past decade, culminating with her role as president, she led the strategic direction of the group and steered it through difficult financial times, actively raised money to support the chapter’s work and recruited members. Eva also made structural changes to move the chapter forward, keeping pace with the changing environment within which we practice public relations. Significantly, championing a more diverse profession and creating the chapter's Diversity and Inclusion Officer position alter the chapter’s course. Her D&I work led to our receiving national recognition as the PRSA 2020 Chapter Diversity & Inclusion first place award. This is just another example of Eva consistently encouraging public relations professionals, making our profession and its professionals stronger and raising our profile within PRSA.

During the last three or four years, Eva saw the possibility social media could play in our chapter. She worked toward regularly posting to the various accounts, trying to keep members and the community appraised of chapter activity and accomplishments. Consistent with her involvement following her passion, Eva conceived of the Career Coffee Series. When her board term ended, she committed to chairing the committee that brought them to life. These meetings give members insight into the career journeys of local public relations professionals and inspire new professionals to chart their own courses. Her service continues to enhance our chapter and our profession, locally and nationally.

Initially connected through her sons, Eva selfishly donated her time to helping Homegrown Lacrosse reach its potential. The non-profit was started by four young coaches with no management or strategic development backgrounds. She was a driving force behind formalizing and growing the organization whose mission is to build a community that inspires and empowers youth to excel in life and lacrosse. Using her well-honed leadership and organizational skills, she guided the organization’s development – from strategic planning and vision development to creating a structure that supported full-time employees and the formation of a board of directors. As the organization matured, she continued to provide guidance and execution support for the non-profit’s founders at each step; branding & marketing, new “product and market development,” customer support processes, human resources processes, fundraising & development and, of course, communications and public relations. Her ongoing commitment creates a safe environment within which Minnesota youth build Lacrosse capabilities while they increase general life skills, including self-confidence and other competencies to help them excel in life.

Working with one of her Padilla clients introduced Eva to a B2B professional group in another market. In typical Eva style, she wanted this kind of resource in our community and set about establishing a group of interested professionals and founding the Minnesota chapter of Business Marketing Association, (now Association of National Advertisers). It’s the only professional association in the Minnesota region dedicated exclusively to helping the large community of B2B communicators and marketers track the latest related trends, products and strategies. Through events and professional development programs, the group advances professionals. Eva served on the founding Board of Directors.

Finally, Eva is a role model and mentor to professionals as well as students. Her kindness and generosity shine through and welcome people to seek her advice and counsel. She also regularly takes advantage of “teachable moments” to help clients better understand and appreciate our profession. Here are highlights of four organizations that demonstrate the kind of difference Eva has made for the greater good of our community.


2019 – Greg Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA

The 2019 Padilla Award recipient is Gregory J. Zimprich, APR, Fellow PRSA, a nationally recognized global communications leader with demonstrated expertise in driving best-in-class PR and communications programs. His notable experience spans from galvanizing support for transformational business change to launching more than 150 new consumer products, and from serving as a spokesperson in local and national media to creating social media strategies that enable brands to foster direct relationships with their consumers. More importantly, Greg epitomizes the principles of the Padilla Award – with a tremendous record of community service – giving freely of his time and talent to help others.

With 35-plus years of proven experience – mostly with Fortune 100 companies including General Mills, Honeywell, and Medtronic – he is a seasoned PR counselor who has positively advanced the profession and made meaningful contributions to the mission of PRSA. His work has been recognized by more than 100 local, regional, and national awards – including two Silver Anvil Awards and multiple Bronze Anvil Awards – and has been featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. In 2010 he was honored by General Mills with their highest employee honor – the Champions Award – for creating the industry’s first blogger network and in 2016 he was recognized by Honeywell for his work in leading communications strategy in support of the company’s labor negotiations.

A PRSA member since 1988, Greg has served the Minnesota chapter in a variety of roles, most recently as chapter President in 2019. He served five terms on the Minnesota chapter board of directors, earned his APR accreditation in 2003, and was elected to the College of Fellows in 2015. Greg has been a frequent scholarship and competition judge, panelist, speaker, Leadership Assembly delegate, and committee member. A sought-after national speaker, Greg has presented at more than 25 leading industry and professional conferences – including PRSA’s International Conference and numerous chapter events.

Greg’s commitment to community involvement is well documented, benefiting a broad range of organizations – including Special Olympics Minnesota, General Mills’ United Way campaign and volunteer board, and coaching travel baseball and basketball for nearly 15 years. In 1997 he was elected President of the National Alumni Board at Saint Mary’s University, his undergraduate alma mater. An active volunteer at St. Hubert’s Catholic Community in Chanhassen, he served on the Parish Senior Advisory Council, chair of the School Advisory Board for 12 years, and athletic director for 10 years – earning the school’s Distinguished Service Award in 2011. He currently serves as a senior adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University, where he’s taught PR classes since 2015, and was inducted into the President’s Circle of Engagement in 2016. A frequent mentor to both students and alumni alike, he’s helped dozens of young professionals advance their careers. He’s also been a frequent guest lecturer at Saint Mary’s, the University of St. Thomas, the University of Minnesota, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. 


2018 – Tom Jollie, APR

When a Twin Cities nonprofit needs communications support, there’s a good chance their call will be to Tom Jollie, APR and senior vice president at Padilla.

Tom has devoted his 38 years as a public relations professional to helping purpose-driven organizations communicate effectively with their audiences.

Many worthy Twin Cities organizations have benefited from Tom’s pro bono and voluntary board service and communications counsel, including the Boy Scouts of America Northern Star Council, The Brand Lab, Children’s Cancer Research Fund, East Town Business Partnership, Minneapolis Downtown Council, Children’s HeartLink and Second Harvest Heartland. 

For the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts, Tom serves on the executive committee and leads the marketing communication committee. By spearheading research, Tom helped to uncover attitudes and behaviors of the next generation of Scouts that informed the chapter’s membership-boosting strategy.

At Second Harvest Heartland, Tom partnered with community leaders to expand its role from a food shelf to a regional force for solving hunger. He also advocated for unconventional means to close the hunger gap, articulating more impactful approaches to communicating its mission.

Tom also has a long legacy of giving back to colleagues at Padilla – and spurring the company’s growth and development. He opened and ran a successful branch office for 15 years, helped relocate the company to its premiere location in downtown Minneapolis and early on helped Padilla expand its service offerings.

Through the years, Tom has served on multiple pro-bono committees at Padilla and coached generations of aspiring communications colleagues and students.

For PRSA, Tom has chaired many committees, served as Minnesota Chapter President in 1993 and then served as the Midwest District Director.

Today Tom leads the company’s Minnesota practice – and he is one of the agency’s leading award-winners, too. His industry recognition has including Silver and Bronze Anvils, Classics awards, a Telly Award, and a Midwest Regional Emmy Award Emmy for a Bush Foundation program.

“Whatever your aspirations, if you want to gain something, you have to give something first – freely, and without expectations,” said Tom. “That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received.”


2017 – Paul Maccabee

Public relations with integrity. Over his 30-year career in public relations, Paul Maccabee has used PR strategies to champion LGBT rights, and help fight drug addiction and other chronic illnesses including lymphedema, eye diseases, orthopedic conditions and eating disorders.

From launching Hazelden’s “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction” campaign for families heading toward recovery to partnering with sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer on a “Keeping Sexuality Alive” campaign, from working with Jeff Bridges on the actor’s “Fast Forward to End Hunger” campaign to feed children to helping OfficeMax give away $1.2 million in school supplies through its “A Day Made Better” campaign – Paul has found ways to combine a passion for social justice with a career in PR.

Prior to co-founding his agency Maccabee in Minneapolis 21 years ago, Maccabee cut his teeth with Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin (now Weber Shandwick-Minneapolis), Minda and Kamstra Communications. Today, his agency supports TheBrandLab, the Minneapolis non-profit dedicated to increasing diversity across the Twin Cities PR and advertising world.

Maccabee began his career as PR director for the federal anti-poverty agency Community Action of New Haven, which fights poverty, racism and homelessness.

Since then, he helped:

  • The Sierra Club protest staff cuts at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency by rolling 30 decapitated doll heads through the Governor’s Office to illustrate that “heads were rolling.”
  • Carlson Companies tell their story about fighting global sex trafficking.
  • Took on anti-Semitism by collaborating with Padilla on “Speaking Terror’s Name: A Campaign for Media Fairness” for client Minnesotans Against Terrorism.
  • Convinced 50 local PR, design and advertising agencies to join in signing a letter to then-Gov. Pawlenty urging him to oppose a ban on same-sex marriage.

In partnership with PRSA Minnesota, Maccabee has dedicated himself to mentorship for young PR professionals. He’s guest lectured at Metropolitan State University, St. Thomas University and the Carlson School of Management, highlighting the challenges of ethics in PR. His support for PRSA includes co-presenting the Career Coffee with Medtronic’s Greg Zimprich earlier this year, welcoming PRSSA student groups for agency tours, contributing to the PRSA’s Perspectives blog, and helming MN PRSA’s first-ever “Coffee with a Legend: Building a Kick-Butt Career” event for PR practitioners.

Praised for “always looking for offbeat angles” by the Wall Street Journal, Maccabee is famous – or infamous – for offbeat creativity: his “Sound of Mooosic” for Kemps persuaded singers to moo popular songs like cows; he carved the face of Gov. Ventura out of 5,000 pounds of ice cream, hired dueling Elvis Presley impersonators for M & M/ Mars; and hired pet psychics to read the minds of cats and dogs for PETCO stores. Public relations practiced with integrity, an eye to social justice – and infamous creativity. Yes, that’s Paul.

2016 – Rose McKinney, APR, Fellow PRSA

Results that matter. That’s what Rose McKinney is all about and it’s the common theme that runs throughout her career, her contributions to the public relations professional, and her commitment to the community.

Rose's influence and accomplishments—which range from establishing a national Millennium celebration to saving a Shriners Hospital from closure—are notable. She has helped hundreds of organizations, from entrepreneurial startups to international conglomerates to vital non-profit groups, tap the power and potential of brand-reputation.

Rose has spent her career on the agency side serving as account manager at Miller Meester, director of public relations at Foley Sackett, vice president client services at Karwoski & Courage, and president of Risdall McKinney Public Relations. In 2011 she started Pineapple RM, a communications firm focused on brand and reputation.

She served as chapter president of Minnesota PRSA in 2007, served on the Universal Accreditation Board, which oversees and grants the APR designation, and was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in 2014. Organizations including PRSA, IABC, SABRE and PR Week have recognized Rose and her teams with nearly 100 industry and business awards.

An adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University since 2005, Rose is a seven-time recipient of the President’s Circle of Engagement for developing community-based curricula in the courses she teaches. In 2015, the University presented Rose with its Excellence in Teaching award, nominated by her students and selected from among more than 925 faculty members.

In recent years, Rose formed Our Young Addicts, a growing community of parents and professionals concerned about the number of young people using drugs and alcohol. A passionate public speaker, Rose serves on panels for a number of school districts and at community forums hosted by law enforcement. She has penned than one million words on the topic of youth substance use with articles appearing in local and national publications. In 2016, Our Young Addicts partnered with Know The Truth / Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge to cohost a prevention conference attended by more than 400 licensed professionals.


2015 – Joel Swanson, APR

A tireless advocate for the public relations, Joel has been instrumental in the advancement of the profession in Minnesota – shaping the perception of public relations within the business community, developing the professional of tomorrow and guiding the direction of the chapter.

Joel currently serves as the Immediate Past President of Minnesota PRSA and served on three separate terms on the Board of Directors as well as provided thousands of hours of volunteer work as co-chair for numerous committees and as a PRSA Assembly delegate. In addition, as an adjunct instructor at adjunct instructor at St. Cloud State University, University of Northwestern (St. Paul), and Inver Hills Community College and frequent guest speaker, Joel has shaped the next generation of professionals and instilled the values and principles of our profession.

Prior to becoming an independent public relations consultant, Joel served as president of Risdall Public Relations. During his tenure, Joel contributed to the improving the health and well-being of individuals, the success of his clients as well as the success of his agency. On the client-side, Joel selectively focused his efforts on helping mission-driven organizations build brands, create effective go-to market strategies and execution, as well as prepare for crises and management of critical issues. Joel defined and led strategic business turnaround of public relations agency and helped transition strategic direction and daily operations of agency from founder to next generation ownership.

Earlier in his career, Joel focused on helping improve the health of all Minnesotans at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He also held public relations, public affairs and marketing roles at Bethel University and Minnesota Education Association (now Education Minnesota).

Notable achievements include the development and execution of Bethel University’s first media relations plan and development of Bethel’s first intranet and online student registration system, planning and execution of Minnesota Teacher of the Year program. The pinnacle of his early professional years was leading national recognition and planning for a White House Rose Garden ceremony for National Teacher of the Year.

Joel also devotes much of his free time to serving the community. He is a member of the Board for Clearway Minnesota (2010-present) and Ronald McDonald House, Upper Midwest (2007-2012). Joel also volunteers as a football, basketball and baseball coach and den leader for his four boys and their classmates. And if that wasn’t enough, he has served as President/Director of the Irondale Baseball League since 2006.


2014 – Sara Gavin

Throughout her career, Sara Gavin has upheld the standards of public relations through her work in positioning, brand and reputation management, crisis communications, grassroots and advocacy building, consumer education, media relations and social media. Prior to joining Weber Shandwick, Gavin spent three years at the international public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton, where she was vice president. She is also one of the founders of Minneapolis-based Mona, Meyer, McGrath & Gavin, which became part of Weber Shandwick in 1988. In addition to her career achievements, Gavin serves on the board of directors of Securian Corporation, where she sits on the Governance and Human Resources committees. Gavin also serves on the boards of College Possible, a national nonprofit organization that helps make college success an attainable goal for students and Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s most innovative hunger relief organizations. Gavin also previously served on several community boards, including Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media Group, Saint Catherine University, the regional board of Teach for America and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal recognized Gavin for her contributions to the Minnesota business scene by naming her one of Minnesota’s “40 under 40” and later, one of “Minnesota’s 25 Most Innovative Women.” Saint Catherine University named Gavin one of the Centennial 100, for her significant impact in shaping the university during its first 100 years. 


2013 – Jim Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

For 40 years, Lukaszewski, who has taught, lectured or consulted in all 50 states and much of Canada and South America has advised, coached, and counseled the men and women who run significant corporations and organizations through extraordinary problems and critical high-profile circumstances. He is considered one of America’s foremost crisis communication experts; Lukaszewski is a counselor, educator, best-selling author and ambassador for the public relations industry. He currently is president of the Lukaszewski Group Division of Risdall Marketing. Since 1979, Lukaszewski has published 12 books, including his 2008 release Why Should the Boss Listen to You. He travels the country to speak with various chapters of the PRSA and other professional organizations. He teaches and lectures frequently at universities and his writings and teachings are routinely used as course material for college crisis communication courses around the world. 

Lukaszewski also shares his knowledge through pro-bono consulting to the Boy Scouts of America Northern Star Council, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the military services, universities and colleges all across America. He also served as a civilian advisor to the United States Marine Corps from 1988 to 2009. His writings and teaching are used extensively by all military services through the Defense Information School DINFOS at Fort Meade, Maryland. Actively involved in the communication industry, Lukaszewski serves as an ethics thought leader.  He has spent more than 20 years on the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS), 10 of those as co-chair. Over his career, Lukaszewski has received recognition for his volunteer work and his contribution to the advancement of the profession. 

Prior to founding the New York-based Lukaszewski Group Inc. in 1989 he was senior vice president and director of Executive Communication Programs for Georgeson & Company and a partner with Chester Burger Company, both in New York City. He launched his public relations career after serving as an adult intern through Metropolitan State University in the press office of former Governor Wendell R. Anderson in 1974. Upon graduation, Lukaszewski was hired as an Assistant Press Secretary in the Governor’s office. Two years later, he was named Director of Publicity and Publications and later Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.  


2012 – David Schoeneck, APR

David L. Schoeneck, APR, founded The Praxis Group in 1995. He has led public and investor relations activities for organizations such as Fargo Electronics, Inc., National Car Rental System, Inc., Graco Inc., Republic Airlines, Inc., and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and also worked as an account executive at Padilla and Speer (now Padilla Speer Beardsley). He was a reporter and editor for four years at a daily newspaper in Southern Minnesota while also attending Minnesota State University – Mankato. He then served two years in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam as a combat correspondent with the 4th Infantry Division. 

He has been an active member of two professional organizations: the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI). Schoeneck became an Accredited member of PRSA in 1977, and was elected President of the Minnesota Chapter of PRSA in 1990. He has been a delegate to the National Assembly of PRSA on eight occasions, and has served twice as a member of the National Nominating Committee. In 1995, he was elected chair of PRSA’s Midwest District. He also served a three year term as Chapter Ethics Officer for the Minnesota Chapter from 2003 to 2005. From 1988 to 1994, Schoeneck served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Minnesota Chapter of NIRI.


2012 – David Kostik, APR

David Kostik, APR, founded Kostik Associates Inc. in 2007. Through his firm he provides public relations, fundraising, and strategic planning counsel to a variety of corporate and nonprofit organizations. Prior to launching his firm, Kostik held key public relations positions in a number of organizations including service with the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, Minnegasco (now CenterPoint Energy), Northern States Power Company (now Xcel Energy), Hennepin Parks (now Three Rivers Park District), and Padilla Speer Public Relations (now PadillaCRT). Kostik has been a member of the Minnesota Chapter of PRSA since 1975, and he earned his Accreditation in 1986. He also served on the Board of the Minnesota Chapter from 1988-1992, including his role as Chapter President in 1991. He is a co-coordinator of a network of past presidents of Minnesota PRSA.


2011 – Doug Spong, APR, Fellow PRSA

Doug Spong has spent the last 30 years leaving his mark on the public relations industry. At the age of 31, Spong founded Carmichael Lynch Spong public relations. Today the firm ranks among the most decorated PR firms in the world, with more than 300 client awards for a host of envied brands. In 2009, Spong took on the broader role as president of Carmichael Lynch in addition to his responsibilities as president of Carmichael Lynch Spong. In this role, Doug leads the entire 200+ member creative agency—from advertising, public relations and digital to brand planning, consumer engagement and brand activation. Spong has demonstrated countless contributions to the public relations profession and the community in his 30 years in the business. This is evidenced by his efforts in numerous committees for a variety of public relations and community organizations. This is in addition to his frequent guest lectures and his role as a mentor to many young public relations professionals.

Spong is also an avid volunteer, racking up over 250 hours a year. Spong joined the Minnesota chapter of PRSA in 1984 and has proven to be an asset ever since. He is one of 32 founding members of the Council of Public Relations Firms, the industry trade association for the top 100 PR firms. He has served the Council as a board director and treasurer and currently serves on the Council’s Leadership and Governance Committee as well as the Audit Committee.


2010 – Ted Davis, APR

Ted Davis has worked in public relations in Minneapolis/St. Paul since 1985. He founded Davis Communications Management in 1998 to provide strategic public affairs council to companies, organizations and individuals across Minnesota. His practice focuses on navigating complex public issues through media and community relations, crisis communications and mobilizing grassroots advocacy. Throughout his career, he has maintained a strong commitment to the community. He has served as a crisis media relations volunteer for the American Red Cross and as a public relations advisor to numerous public officials and community organizations. As a frequent guest lecturer and adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he has helped young PR practitioners prepare for their careers. He has been a member of PRSA since 1986 serving as a director, National Assembly Delegate and committee member including past service as co-chair of the accreditation committee.


2009 – David Hakensen, APR

During his 25-year career, David has become a sought-after counselor who provides strategic counsel to senior management and who understands the importance of leveraging communications and public relations to support business objectives. A PRSA member since 1981, David has been a loyal and active advocate, volunteer and leader in the organization and the profession it supports. He has a keen interest in giving back to his profession and has held PRSA leadership positions that include: Minnesota chapter board of directors (1996-2001); president of the Minnesota chapter (2000); and chair of the Midwest District PRSA (2006-2008). David’s energetic volunteerism as an engaged communicator active “outside of the office” benefits the community and represents the profession using the same high levels of technical competence, expertise, strategic counsel and knowledge-sharing that have marked his value to agency clients and employers. David has always been busy as an eager, willing volunteer who genuinely enjoys leveraging his trade for stakeholders that include civic groups, professional organizations, business associations, academic programs and students.


2004 – David Mona

David Mona, a 30-year public relations veteran, has been a leader in numerous civic, charitable and educational organizations throughout his career. In 1981, Mona founded Mona Meyer McGrath & Gavin, which is now known as Weber Shandwick. Currently approaching $2 million in donated time and dollars, the firm continues Mona’s commitment to give back to the nonprofit community. In 1987, the city of Bloomington named Mona “Small Business Person of the Year.” Mona helped bring the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four to Minnesota in 1992 and served as state chairman of the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. He was president of the Minnesota Alumni Association and the Council of Growing Companies. Currently, Mona serves on boards of the Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association, Tom Lehman’s Challenge golf tournament and the Minnesota Medical Foundation. He chairs the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund board and is past chair of the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce.


2003 – Ann Barkelew, APR, Fellow PRSA 

Ann Hamilton Barkelew has more than 30 years of top management experience with Fortune 100 and small-to-mid cap companies. In 1995, she was named by her peers internationally as “Public Relations Professional of the Year.” Ann currently gives her time and talents to several community organizations, including VocalEssence, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities, Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable, the Arthur W. Page Society and the National School Public Relations Association. She has also volunteered with the Girl Scouts of America, the Minnesota News Council, and the PRSA College of Fellows. Ann also served as Chair of the board of The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis and was on the board of the United Way Success by Six. She has received the National School PR Learning and Liberty Award and was honored with the Ester V. Crosby Award for leadership by the Greater Minneapolis Girl Scout Council.


2002 – Paul Omodt, APR 

Paul Omodt received the 2002 Padilla Award in recognition of the time and talent he has given to the community throughout his public relations career. Paul’s public relations volunteer and pro bono activities includes achieving media coverage for Minnesota Against Terrorism’s mission, AirLifeLine’s mission, Janet Reno’s visit to the Courage Center, Big Brothers, Big Sisters merger, and more. Paul has been adept in using his public relations skills to advice various non-profit organizations and has helped generate awareness and publicity to their causes. Paul’s commitment to the community extends well beyond public relations. He is a youth hockey coach and has served as an advisor to many candidates for public office. In January 2003, Paul was appointed to the St. Louis Park City Council.


2001 – Dave Therkelsen, APR, Fellow PRSA 

Dave Therkelsen has worked at the American Red Cross since 1978. Therkelsen’s Red Cross experience includes work as public relations director for the St. Paul area chapter and blood region, as well as administrator of the organ and tissue transplant program and general manager of biomedical services. In 2000, Therkelsen was awarded the American Red Cross presidential Tiffany Award for excellence in management. His distinguished career also includes services as public relations manager for a governmental agency, and one term as city council member in Coon Rapids, Minn. Therkelsen is a past president of Minnesota PRSA, and is a past chair of PRSA’s national Social Services section. He also teaches public relations as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota.


2000 – Leila Erlandson 

Leila Erlandson has given selflessly of her time and skills for nearly 10 years. Each year, she volunteers hundreds of hours for local and international organizations, while continuing to devote herself to work, family and friends. Leila’s strong communications skills are tailored to the needs of each organization she serves. From strategic communications and public relations to crisis communications and Spanish literacy, Leila provides valuable expertise to organizations that could not otherwise afford these services. Leila currently serves as board vice president and chair of the marketing/development committee for the Minneapolis Youth Diversion Program, where she donates more than 100 hours of the free time. She also secures media sponsorships and placements for the Bull Moose Charitable Foundation’s Bull Moose Party, spreads the word of the mission of the Guatemalan Benefit Dance and acts as a crisis consultant for the God Child Project (Antigua, Guatemala/Minneapolis chapter.)

Leila has also volunteered for the United Way of Minneapolis, Little Brother’s Friend’s of the Elderly, Crisis Connection and the President’s Summit. And her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Leila has received the CityBusiness Unsung Hero Volunteer Award, the WCCO Radio “Good Neighbor” Volunteer Award, the KARE 11 “Eleven Who Care” Volunteer Recognition Award and was chosen in 1006 to be a Community Hero Torchbearer for the Olympic Torch Relay.


1999 – Margaret Hennen, APR, Fellow PRSA

Margaret Hennen has been serving the United Way of the Saint Paul area for 15 years in a variety of capacities—from chairing the marketing communications committee to leading a citizen review team and coordinating annual campaigns at Fortis and earlier at Unisys. Although her involvement has varied, her focus is clear. “It’s important to keep sharing information about how important the United Way is and the results it achieves in our communities,” said Hennen. “Because the United Way closely monitors the needs of the community they are able to respond to a variety of needs. We tend to forget that the needs are around all of the time.” Margaret served as president of Minnesota PRSA in 1997. She has been a member of PRSA since 1984 and has been accredited since 1990.


1998 – Francine Hitchcock

For the past 21 years, community volunteerism has been an intrinsic part of Fran Hitchcock’s life. Her volunteer activities stem from her her heart and family, not her position or personal aspirations. She created organizations to serve unmet needs, stimulated hundreds of individuals to volunteer their own time and has created pro bono and giving programs that are now being replicated across the country. Her commitment is shown not only by the number of organizations she has touched but also by her long years of service—more than 21 years on the board of Children’s Home Society and 16 years volunteering for Breck School and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. The results she has achieved stand as proof of her dedication to utilizing public relations and communications to further the objectives of the organizations she served. For example, after learning that all cancer research dollars were going to adult research, Fran helped found the Children’s Cancer Research Fund in 1981. She has also served on the KARE-11 Board of Governors to select the 11 Who Care Award recipients.


1997 – Edwin Neuger, APR

Ed Neuger has been a tireless volunteer for five decades, contributing immeasurably to the quality of life throughout this region. Since he started his agency as a public relations pioneer in 1959, Ed has been an innovator and an optimist who lives his belief in the value of community service. Ed has given generously of his time and financial resources through good times and through tough times in a 40-year career. Even after experiencing a heart attack and recurrence of cancer, Ed’s commitment to serving others remains strong. He is active in the business community, is a coach and mentor to younger people at the agency and is active on the board of the Kidney Foundation of the Upper Midwest. He is also active in fundraising for Mount Olivet’s Rolling Acre center for people with developmental disabilities. Ed’s service has extended from his youth with his years of coaching Little League, his YMCA board leadership and his service for the National Youth Leadership Council to his active role in the Kidney Foundation, Goodwill Industries and the National Retiree Volunteer Coalition.

Long before the advent of cause marketing, Ed was a master at bringing company resources to bear on community needs. During the Vietnam War, Ed brought Twin City Federal and the Red Cross together so that loved ones could tape messages to be delivered at Red Cross stations to soldiers in Vietnam. He united Minnegasco and the Salvation Army in a program called “HeatShare” that allows customer to help provide heat for those who couldn’t afford it. For Barrett Moving and Storage, Ed’s “Holiday Van” program collected food and clothing for needy families. He has also led professional groups and was Minnesota PRSA president in 1971. He has mentored and employed some of the best people in the profession over along career and continues to meet with young professionals. Ed encourages employees to participate in community service and has always provided time and opportunities for them to do so.


1996 – Roland L. Minda, APR 

Roland L. Minda, APR, was awarded the 1996 Donald G. Padilla Community Classic Award by the Minnesota Chapter, Public Relations Society of America. The award honors a Minnesota PRSA member who has volunteered time and talents toward improving the community through communications, and was presented the award at the organization’s annual awards dinner at the University Club. Minda, managing officer, Minda Associates, Inc., Minneapolis, has successfully balanced his volunteer commitments the past 35 years with the Twin Cities community, the public relations field and his Jewish community interests. He has served 30 years as board member for Hennepin County Animal Humane Society, with two terms as President; 25 years with the Minneapolis Metropolitan YMCA’s public relations committee; 25 years with the Minneapolis Rotary Club; and 20 years as board member of the National Conference of Jews. Minda has been recognized frequently for his community involvement, including:

  • “Leadership in Membership Development” honors from Minnesota PRSA;
  • “Vital Contribution to our YMCA Mission” honors from Minneapolis Metropolitan YMCA;
  • “Good Neighbor” award from WCCO-AM radio;
  • “Red” Motley Award/ Outstanding Member of the Year, Minneapolis Sales & Marketing Executives;
  • Honorary Lifetime Board Member for Dedicated Services, Temple Israel, Minneapolis.

Minda has also served the Hennepin County American Red Cross, The Cricket Theater, the Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce (as Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee), the Minnesota Jewish Historical Society and the Princeton University Alumni Association.