PR Club Past Presidents (when it was the Publicity Club of New England): (left to right) John J. Molloy (our first president), Warren Davidson; (below) S. Kennedy Tully; (above) Vincent J. Tuscher, Siebert F. Cunningham, Frank Doherty, Arnold T. Koch, Gerald Powers, Nancy Caruso, Cynthia L. Rawson, Michael O. Ciccarelli, and Claire M. Deveney. See below for a complete history of PR Club presidents.

Most Boston lunch tables were abuzz with sorting news in Fall 1948, the year The Publicity Club of Boston was born. Ted Williams had cakewalked to the American League batting championship, while on the other side of town, Bill Southworth’s Boston Braves had captured the National League pennant.

Not everyone shared the city’s enthusiasm to the same degree, however. For John J. Molloy and Daisy Weichel, publicity directors for the Chamber of Commerce and the old Hotel Touraine respectively, things were less bright. They felt their profession was in the cellar of public acceptance.

It seemed to them that more and more people – calling themselves publicists, public relations counselors, or both, depending upon the situation – were scurrying from city room to city room touting what, to them, were their organization’s merits.

To John and Daisy, with more and more “public relations” jobs being created, the need for a unifying, professional organization – one that at once would offer camaraderie, opportunities for professional exchange and education, and, importantly, help bring credibility to their profession – was clear.

The Molloy-Weichel idea took further hold later in 1948 when they and four others tossed around the pros and cons of forming such an organization.

The four were the late Eleanor Collier, who distinguished herself as the grand lady of Boston University’s School of Public Communication, founded that very year; the late Floyd Bell; Marie Houlahan, who went on to become the club’s first woman president; and the late Bill Cavanaugh of United Air Lines.

Eleanor, Floyd and Marie joined in to write the constitution and bylaws. And, even today, the club remembers Bill Cavanaugh’s contribution to those early days with an annual scholarship award bearing his name. The club’s formal organization took place on February 1, 1949. On March 15, 1949, 29 persons met in the Adams Room of the Hotel Touraine for The Publicity Club of Boston’s first meeting. John Molloy was elected its first president. The Collier-Bell-Houlahan bylaws were adopted.

At first, meetings were held weekly; then, every two weeks. Now they are held monthly, featuring recognized experts in communications or notable public figures as guest speakers.

In 1989, the club officially changed its name to The Publicity Club of New England, to more accurately reflect the organization’s expanding membership. In 2018, in recognition of the expanded scope of public relations beyond merely publicity, the organization changed its name to the PR Club.

For all its growth, however, the tenets contained in Article II of the club’s original constitution still remain:

  • To promote and encourage the profession of public relations and publicity;
  • To create in New England a lasting organization of persons engaged in the profession of public relations and publicity; and to provide them with a forum for the discussion of professional problems;
  • To promulgate a code of ethics, standards and fair practice under which its members operate.

Professional Education

Since 1961, The PR Club has annually sponsored an education program open to members and nonmembers, public relations veterans and novices alike. Programs offer up-to-date perspectives in public relations theory and practice, with the goal of making each participant a more polished practitioner.

Also in the educational realm, PR Club members are frequently asked to volunteer their talents at many area colleges and universities. Members have judged writing competitions, lectured in their specific areas of expertise, and counseled would-be practitioners studying in academic communication or public relations programs.

Scholarship Program

Each year, deserving students from area colleges and universities compete for The PR Club’s William M. Cavanaugh Memorial Scholarship. Applicants must have specific career goals in public relations, publicity or related field, and have a demonstrated record of scholastic achievement. Financial need is also considered in making a scholarship award. All scholarship candidates are screened by the club’s Scholarship Committee, with the scholarship award presented at the annual Bell Ringers Awards in June.

75th Anniversary

In 2024, The PR Club time capsule, which now resides safely with the current board, will be unsealed. Assembled in 1984 as part of the club’s 35th anniversary celebration, the time capsule contains artifacts from various communications activities and media memorabilia collected during the course of the year. Details of the capsule’s contents are on file at Boston University’s College of Communications library at 640 Commonwealth Avenue, and with the Vice President, standards and practices. The capsule was last visited in May, 2018 to check on its condition.

Bell Ringer Awards Program

In 1969, on The PR Club’s 20th anniversary, the Bell Ringer Awards program was instituted to recognize public relations work which demonstrates excellence in creative planning and professional education and exhibits a high degree of success in reaching predetermined objectives. Gerry Powers, professor of public relations at Boston University, was the first Bell Ringer chair.

Open to all New England practitioners, the program symbolizes one of the greatest tributes in any field of endeavor – the recognition of superior performance by one’s peers.

Experts from a variety of communications pursuits judge the competition and award Bell Ringers to the best total communications campaigns and single elements.

A special award, the Super Bell, was inaugurated in 1972 to recognize the highest degree of excellence in the planning, execution and success of public relations programs. This recognition has since been amended to include single elements as well. Like the Bell Ringers Awards, the Super Bell is awarded at the annual Bell Ringer Awards recognition event, which has become one of the highlights of the public relations year in Boston and New England. It remains the only regional public relations award program in New England. The John J. Molloy Crystal Bell lifetime achievement award was added in 1990, with the late Norman Bryden and Edward Bernays receiving the first awards. The Striker and Ringer awards (added in the early 2000s) recognize newcomers and mid-level practitioners in the industry. 

Presidential Roster

1949-1950 John J. Molloy*
1950-1951 William M. Cavanaugh*
1951-1952 Floyd L. Bell*
1952-1953 Ralph L. Rogers*
1953-1954 John L. Lynne*
1954-1955 Morgan H. Plummer, Jr.
1955-1956 Alfred P. Williams
1956-1957 Floyd L. Bell
1957-1958 Marie H. Houlahan
1958-1959 Warren H. Davidson
1959-1960 Paul A. Newsome
1960-1961 Robert H. Hall*
1961-1962 S. Kennedy Tully*
1962-1963 Leo F. Maher
1963-1964 Vincent J. Tuscher
1964-1965 Siebert F. Cunningham*
1965-1966 Frank Doherty*
1966-1967 John J. D’Addieco*
1967-1968 Frank O. Allison*
1968-1969 Wilfred G. Solimene*
1969-1970 Ann E. Herzog
1970-1971 Judith K. Nelligan*
1971-1972 Arnold T. Koch
1972-1973 Gerald Powers
1973-1974 Nancy J. Caruso
1974-1975 Richard O. Berube*
1975-1976 Cynthia L. Rawson
1976-1977 Michael O. Ciccarelli*
1977-1978 Claire M. Deveney
1978-1979 Joseph C. Nahil
1979-1980 Francis Gregory II*
1980-1981 Harriet L. Stanley
1981-1982 Rolf A. Fuessler
1982-1983 Douglass E. Kenney*
1983-1984 Richard I. Young
1984-1985 Diane L. McKedy
1985-1986 Linda Sanders
1986-1987 Norine P. Bacigalupo
1987-1988 Burton Peretsky
1988-1989 Katherine H. Blake
1989-1990 Hallie Baron
1990-1991 Gwynne Jamieson
1991-1992 Claire M. Deveney
1992-1993 Elenore Parker
1993-1994 Laura O. Palmer
1994-1995 David N. Stern
1995-1996 Andrew L. Schupack
1996-1997 Helene Solomon
1997-1998 Richard I. Young
1998-1999 Helene Solomon
1999-2000 Julie Dennehy
2000-2001 Ashley McCown
2001-2002 Kelly Mello Woodsum
2002-2003 Stephanie (Torpy) Tan
2003-2004 Amy Shanler
2004-2005 William Fleishman
2005-2006 Karen Cummings
2006-2007 Michael Dowding
2007-2008 Beth Bailey
2008-2009 Risa Burgess
2009-2010 Karen Reynolds
2010-2011 Lauren Howe
2011-2012 Ani Jigarjian
2012-2013 Toni Iafrate
2013-2014 Maryanne Keeney
2014-2015 Kristin Allaben
2015-2016 Karyn Martin
2016-2018 Cheryl Gale
2018-2020 Todd Graff
2020-2022 Amanda Fountain
2022 –         Sofia Giovannello

* Deceased