PRSA News

In Memoriam Arthur Yann

Update 6/17: A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, June 21 (MEET DIRECTLY AT CHURCH) at 10:30 am at St. Thomas Aquinas, 1719 Post Road, Fairfield CT 06824. Burial will be private. Friends and family may call on Thursday, June 20 from 4 to 8 pm at the Cody-White Funeral Home, 107 Broad St., Milford, CT 06460. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in Arthur’s honor to Sofia’s college fund. College America fbo Sofia Yann, American Funds Service Company, PO BOX 2713, Norfolk, VA 23501-2713

Update 6/19: If you are traveling by train from New York City to the services on Thursday, you may take the Metro-North New Haven Line to the Milford Station. The Cody-White Funeral Home is within walking distance. If you are traveling by train from New York City to the services on Friday, you may take the Metro-North New Haven Line to the Fairfield Station. The St. Thomas Aquinas Church is within walking distance.

Our community joins me in mourning the sudden and unexpected passing of friend, coworker, colleague and PRSA member Arthur Andrew Yann III, APR, PRSA vice president of public relations, on Thursday evening, June 13. He was 48.

Arthur first came to my office to interview as we were filling one of the toughest jobs in public relations — VP of PR for an organization representing more than 20,000 public relations professionals.

He first joined PRSA in 1999, led his own agency, was a member of PRSA Counselors Academy, served as a PRSA volunteer, and designed a campaign that not only won a Gold SABRE and three Big Apple Awards, but also three Silver Anvil Awards. Two Anvil trophies are proudly displayed on his office bookshelf, at this very moment.

As we spoke that first day, many other things about Arthur became clear to me — his quick sense of humor, his powerful intellect and his passion for his work, which were reflected in his attention to detail as well as his commitment to excellence. And so, Arthur joined our team in August 2008.

I was never sure where Arthur got his sense of humor, but it touched us all. He had a booming laugh that echoed across the office at random moments as he found humor in the absurd. He once told us that his ancestors were Western European, and that their original surname had been truncated by a harried immigration official. As a result, for much of his life, people were “expecting (him) to be Asian” since his family had now become the Yanns.

After joining PRSA, he prepared to sit for the APR exam. Like everything he took on, he worked hard to get ready, digging out textbooks and study guides, knowing not only the value of the process, but also the importance of having someone in his role hold the credential. He passed both the APR Readiness Review and computer exam on the first try.

When I’d meet with Arthur to discuss ongoing projects, we’d blow right through our scheduled time as we brainstormed and worked issues “upstream,” such as when we met several years ago to review our advocacy program.

Those discussions led to Arthur setting out PRSA’s new vision for advocacy, which focused on ethics, the value of public relations and diversity. As we went on to execute the plans approved by the Board, Arthur — one of the best writers I’ve ever met — personally wrote many of our advocacy pieces, whether they were published under his byline or others.

Perhaps the most important and biggest challenge Arthur took on for PRSA surrounded our membership dues campaign. After 10 years without an increase in member dues, we faced a stark choice: either cut benefits or raise dues. PRSA bylaws provide that our members vote through the Assembly to set the level of membership dues. Arthur, working closely with the Board, built and executed a campaign that clearly, steadily and calmly set forth the case for an increase, as well as the options facing us. The dues increase was approved on the first vote with minimal discussion — members felt they had been well informed.

Arthur’s place in our C-suite was secure for many reasons, but the most important reason was that he earned that place every day with his counsel, recommendations and commitment. Although he never formalized it, his advice was always the same — do the right thing, and the public relations will follow. He was never a fan of being politically correct. He simply wanted to speak the truth.

Of course, his work at PRSA was just one aspect of Arthur’s life. He enjoyed a good single malt scotch, was an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and, despite years of futility, the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was also a devoted family man, as we learned through the pictures and stories he shared of his wife and daughter. He was among the first to arrive at the office every morning so that he could not only accomplish his work, but also have plenty of time to spend with his family.

We’ll know more in the days ahead about memorial arrangements, and will share those as they become available. In the meantime, I invite you to leave your memories and thoughts of Arthur here on our blog, not only for all of us to share, but to provide some comfort to his wife Amy and 3-year-old daughter Sofia in the days, months and years ahead.

43 Comments

  • Bill,

    What a lovely and touching tribute to Arthur. You’ve described him so well, as of course you would given how close you were and how much time you spent together. I know he felt a higher calling in serving PRSA in his role as VP of PR. Not a day went by where he didn’t feel pride in our profession.

    We worked so closely during the membership dues increase campaign that many days we talked three and four times a day. He made me laugh so much with his wicked sense of humor, even through the most serious of discussions on our work. During those many talks, he told me he hated two things: dishonesty and boredom.

    I will miss his jokes, his laughter, his “zingers,” and his occasional out-of-left field IMs, the last of which I received this past Wednesday, where he was, coincidentally, talking about the Anvils.

    May Amy and Sofia feel his love hugging them during this difficult time.

    Rosanna Fiske

  • Arthur was a consummate professional — as well as a devoted husband and father. He was an asset to PRSA and to our profession, I remember his intelligence, his integrity, and his sense of humor. Our hearts go out to the wife and daughter he loved so much and to the wonderful PRSA team of which he was such an important part.

  • Very sorry to hear of Arthur’s passing. He and I collaborated on a partnership between PRSA and the Ad Council right around the time he arrived at PRSA. He was a gentleman, a professional and a real pleasure to work with. This is certainly a tremendous loss for his family, his friends, and for PRSA and its members. He and his family are in my prayers today.

  • Arthur and I first became acquainted over the marathon bylaws revision a few years ago, and ended up working together over issues resulting from the vote over the APR requirement for officers and the dues increase. We joked about our single malt scotch habit and always talked about taking time after the conferences to sample each other’s favorites, but things always seemed to get in the way and we never did. Amy and Sofia, you are in our thoughts and prayers, no and in the difficult days ahead.

    Debra Bethard-Caplick, APR

  • Arthur was a consummate professional — a credit to our Society and our profession. Those of us who worked with him valued his intelligence, integrity, and great sense of humor — and we also knew him as a devoted and loving husband and father. I recall recently sitting in his office for the Bateman judging on a
    Saturday and we all loved his terrific family photos.Our hearts go out to his family at home as well as to the wonderful PRSA team of which he was such an important and integral part.

  • I’m stunned. My condolences to Arthur’s family and friends. I didn’t know him well, but he was always highly professional in his dealings with me and on behalf of the Society. May he rest in peace.

  • I had the privilege of working with Arthur for the past two years as chair
    of the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and earlier, on a variety of PR topics, as a member of the PRSA Board of Directors. He was a consummate public relations professional, bright, funny, and articulate—and in his personal life, a devoted husband, father, and Pittsburgh Penguins fan. He will be greatly missed!

  • My dear friend, Arthur… I miss you already. I think of Sophie and Amy and my heart aches for them today, on Father’s Day, and hope that one day this day will be about their memories of you and the stories Amy will tell Sophie about how much you loved her and how you made her giggle. My friend… how are we all going to get through the projects that lie ahead without your wit and sense of humor that help melt the stress that otherwise might creep in under the circumstances in which we find ourselves when tackling the difficult? Who’s going to understand my off the wall sense of humor that you seemed to so easily “get” without question? Your loss is tremendous, and your shoes will never be filled. You can’t be replaced and I don’t think anyone will try. Your PRSA
    “jersey” will be retired, and we’ll try to pick up the pieces, fondly remembering the Arthurisms. Until then, we mourn the loss of a great man, an amazing writer, a brilliant strategist, a loyal friend to many, a dedicated husband and father, and ethical man who touched this world with his wit and truth. Goodbye my dear friend. You live forever in my heart and memories

  • The tragedy of this loss is difficult to even grasp. Arthur was truly the consummate professional, who had brought PRSA’s advocacy and communications programs, internal and external, to levels of excellence that many of us thought could never happen.

    But that’s only the smallest part of his legacy. His passion, his spirit, his droll sense of humor, is commitment to getting it right — he was truly a special, special spirit. I never heard him say no — even when one of those “old past presidents” wrote “gee Arthur — a favor?” He was graceful and made it all seem effortless.

    Arthur Yann’s do not pass this way often in our lives. We were all privileged to know him, to be inspired by him, to work with him, to be touched by his brilliance.

    Our loss is so tiny compared to how much the leadership and staff of PRSA will miss his presence and his unceasing contributions.

    And that loss is tiny compared to a wife who has lost a husband so shockingly suddenly, a small daughter who has lost her father, right before her birthday, right before Father’s Day. If there is any consolation for them, knowing that hundreds and hundreds of us who were privileged to call him a colleague, and even more privileged to know him as a great guy and a friend, are mourning along with them, I hope it offers even a small bit of comfort.

    Arthur Yann — gone so young, too soon, at the height of all the good things in life and career.

    Donne was correct in that each man’s death diminishes all of us, and surely Arthur Yann’s passing leaves each of us feeling bereft. His legacy must be that each of us commits to his insistence on excellence, to his passion for our profession, and to his deep, abiding and utter joy in life. It may be the least we can do, but also, the most powerful.

    And a word must be said for Bill Murray and the entire staff of PRSA and Mickey Nall and the PRSA Board, who valiantly carried on with this weekend’s Leadership Rally, with aching hearts and probably still in shock. Their dedication to the Society was an amazing and personal tribute to Arthur and all that he stood for.

    Kathy Lewton, past president, PRSA

  • Well said, Bill. Arthur was a wonderful PR pro but an even better friend, father and mentor to many. As someone who had the privilege of working for him for nearly two years, I saw firsthand many of the qualities and attributes you describe above, both about his professional life with PRSA and the love he always expressed for his family. He found great humor in the absurdities of life, whether that be the banality of a random remark in the office or some great story he had about a random encounter on the subway or Metro North. A day in the office with Arthur was never dull.

    But more than that, he brought out the best in people. As you said, he spoke the truth and was quick to point out when he felt like others weren’t giving him that same courtesy.

    After I left PRSA, Arthur and I became close friends. But more than that, I consider him my greatest mentor. He profoundly changed the course of my career and did so in a way that will forever leave a positive lasting impression on me. I look back at much of my time at PRSA and consider how Arthur shaped so many important initiatives, from reshaping the organization’s now very strong advocacy program to delivering a picture-perfect communications campaign for the dues increase and many other important efforts. He not only knew how to effectively communicate to many audiences, but he had a terrific sense of how to do so in a strategic and common-sense manner that ensured all sides were pleased with the outcome.

    Amy and Sofia – Your husband and father meant so much to so many people. For those of us who worked with him, called him a friend and learned from him, we share in your pain and sorrow. Please know that he made the lives of those around him better and happier. I’ll miss him dearly.

  • I’m very sad to hear of Arthur’s passing. As a young PR professional, I’m grateful for all of the advice that he gave me over the past few years.

    Even though we had our “friendly wagers” about our hockey teams (he was a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and I’m a Buffalo Sabres fan) – which I always lost – it was all in good fun.

    My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the rest of the PRSA family during this difficult time.

  • I had the privilege of working with Arthur for the past two years as chair
    of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and earlier, on various PR
    topics, as a member of the PRSA Board of Directors. He was a consummate public
    relations professional, bright, articulate—and in his personal life, a
    devoted husband, father, and Pittsburgh Penguins fan. He will be greatly missed!

  • While only acquaintances, Arthur Yann always welcomed me as a friend. I am sorry for the loss to his family and friends but also to our profession for which he advocated steadfastly.

  • Arthur had a great sense of humor when describing the various oddballs and NYC weirdos he encountered on his commutes into New York City — often times illustrated with cell phone photos for proof!

    I could always count on Arthur for laughs and a fellow cynic’s point-of-view about occurrences in our shared public relations industry. He had a fun, dry wit and was always happy to help out his fello…w PR pros, whether it was a bit of advice, a job lead, or blowing off steam over a cocktail. He was a great professional and will be deeply missed. His passing is shocking to all of us that were his friends, and we’ll be fondly thinking about the effect he had on of our careers and general well-beings.

    Many of us share his family’s sadness. Rest in peace, pal.

  • I got to know Arthur over the past few years during the bylaws revisions and the dues increase debates in the Assembly. We shared a love of single malt scotch, and often joked about getting together during a conference with other scotch aficionados to swap favorites, but somehow never found the time. My heartfelt condolences to Amy, Sofia, and Arthur’s PR family. We’ve lost a good one.

    Debra Bethard-Caplick

  • Like everyone, when I think of Arthur I will think of his booming, jolly laugh. It was infectious and after he laughed you could hear the echo of laughter throughout the office. I always enjoyed talking to Arthur about politics and sports, especially hockey. The last conversation I had with him we were discussing the Penguins playoff futility. Arthur always had something funny to say and told it like it is. He will be missed. Rest in peace.

    • Candice – After being on the receiving end of endless messages about my Rangers “blowing it” and declarations of sympathy in regard to the downfall of the team, I made quite a few mentions of the Pens demise. So last week, in regard to a scheduled PR staff meeting, Arthur wrote to all of us, “Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to discuss.” I responded, quite sarcastically, “I’d like to discuss the Pen’s pitiful performance last night.” And he, almost immediately said back, “And I’d like to discuss your job performance.” Typical Arthur. I will miss our pointless banter every day.

      • Classic. I can hear his laugh now. I should also add that as two people in the complete political minority, Arthur and I always greeted each other with a secret hand symbol that reflected our voting preference. I dont think anyone else knew about it. I’ll miss having that moment every day.

  • I have been in tears on and off all weekend, even while celebrating a grandson’s high school graduation and a special Father’s Day for my son-in-law yesterday. Across the miles and the time, I feel the hole that’s been rent in the fabric of our PRSA existence. Amy and Sophia, your husband and father always amazed me. Every time he walked into the room when I was on the national board, I expected someone soft-spoken and gentle, because he always gave me that initial impression. Then he started speaking, and it was as though he had a laser beam for a mind: he could slice and dice like nobody’s business. He could get rid of the superfluous and bring the core meaning of any given issue out into the clear light of day. On top of all that, he made time for each of us, always. I remember feeling relieved at how approachable he was, and how much patience he always seemed to have with every question. I was always relieved that it was Art who represented us to the rest of the world. We will not find another like him; but he has blazed a trail that I know others will follow, and he has set an example for all of us. May all your warm memories and loving moments sustain you now, and in the years to come. And everybody at PRSA headquarters, we’re holding you and sending our prayers as well.

    – Kathryn D. Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow PRSA

  • Heartbreaking. Arthur was a kind, generous and wise colleague. He was always willing to help, support and provide sage advice to anyone in the PR profession. A wonderful human being who was taken much too soon. Arthur will be missed deeply by his colleagues, friends and family.

  • I am saddened by the loss of Arthur Yann. Arthur was a great friend. I remember him most for his witty sense of humor, his passion for his family and his love of the PR profession. When he talked about Sophia his eyes lit up. Arthur always had a strong opinion and he was a great PR counselor. He always knew how to make you laugh. Writing this note is surreal. I will miss him tremendously. Rest in peace, friend.

  • I’m amazed–but perhaps shouldn’t be– that so many of you are able to capture your thoughts about Arthur so eloquently. I struggle for the words. The main thing that comes up for me is how grateful I am. Grateful for his laughter. Grateful for his defense of our industry and our association. Grateful for his love of his family. Grateful for those photos and hysterical captions of inappropriate behavior, outfits and smelly sandwiches from Metro North. Grateful that I got to share a hug and a few laughs at the Anvils with him last Thursday. Grateful for his friendship. Sometimes when someone passes before his time, we’re tempted to say “We hardly knew ye.” But in Arthur’s case, we were all blessed to know him very well indeed. RIP, buddy.

  • I cherished my periodic lunches and phone calls with Arthur. Working in
    similar jobs for different industry associations, he and I were able to
    share many of the same experiences, the good and the bad, and we always
    had plenty of laughs. I appreciated his counsel, his disarming honesty
    and his always-astute perspective on work and life. We talked shop, but
    we also spent a good deal of time filling out the bigger picture for
    each other, with stories about our families, our kids, our plans for the
    future. My last get together with Arthur was barely a month ago. I left
    that lunch in a much better mood than when I arrived. I am going to
    miss Arthur Yann.

    – Matt Shaw

  • I was absolutely shocked to hear this news. I’d started getting to know Arthur over the last few years, and was really looking forward to seeing him at this year’s IC, so that we could continue our Facebook debate over Primanti’s sandwiches. He was so kind (even when he was feisty), and I will always be grateful for the way he was so willing to help out, whether it was me, or someone I sent his way. One of the things that struck me most about Arthur was how valiant he was in defending our profession – there’s really no other word for it. There were so many instances when it, and the Association, would come under fire, yet Arthur would politely yet strongly, defend it. I will miss him. I pray for him to rest in peace, and for strength for his wife, daughter and all the family and friends who love and will miss him so.

  • For Sophia Yann…. Thank you or sharing your father with all of us. He made a difference in the world. He was a passionate advocate for the profession and an outstanding practitioner who set an example for the industry. Every time you hear the term “Public Relations” know that your father helped make it better. Having worked side-by-side with your dad, I know he made me better. Your dad’s impact and his spirit will remain with us forever.

  • It is heart-warming to read such kind words about my cousin. We grew up on opposite sides of the country but when we did see each other (usually during summers), the times were always enjoyable. In a lot of ways he was more like a big brother and I have many fond memories from our childhoods. Sadly, we drifted apart did not see each other for 20 years. We finally managed to get our schedules together last year when I was in NYC and for that, I am truly grateful. I’m sure it won’t surprise any of you to know that he insisted on paying for lunch and I let him on the condition that I could get the next one. Unfortunately, that was the last time we saw each other. Our family lost Art’s dad to a heart attack at an early age and my own heart breaks for his mother and two sisters who must endure the loss of two extremely fine human beings. At times like these, it is difficult to find comfort but one thing I took away from our final time together is that he was happy with his life and loved his family very much.

  • I am incredibly saddened to hear the news of Arthur’s passing. I had the privilege of working at PRSA in my first job out of college as the PR Assistant for Arthur’s team. Arthur was incredibly smart and knowledgeable about the industry, and he always made me feel free to share my thoughts and ideas even though I was a total newbie. I feel honored to say I began my career working on Arthur’s team. My thoughts and prayers are with Amy, Sophie and his family and friends.

  • I met Arthur last March at PRSA Headquarters through a trip with University of Oklahoma’s PRSSA chapter. It was my first trip for my professional development within the PRSSA system and he was among the first mentors I met. I am extremely sad to hear the news of his passing and my thoughts and prayers are with Amy and his daughter, Sophia. He will be a constant reminder of how quickly a 30-minute presentation changed the way I saw the world I thought I knew. If Sophie ever needs a big sister, she has got one right here in Oklahoma!

  • I’ve tried to write this post several times over the last few days, and yet the words evaporate before I can get started. I’m heartbroken, because Arthur was not just a great PR pro, but a great guy too (as many have already testified!). I’d known him for the last several years and always enjoyed his insights on the profession. We shared a lot of laughs at the International Conference in Orlando a couple of years ago (at the bar, of course). So, naturally, I was looking forward to seeing him in Philadelphia. But I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know him, even a little bit. And our profession is much richer because of his contribution. My condolences to the PRSA family, and especially to his wife and daughter.

  • I looked at my to-do-list for the week and I had an item that said “Email Arthur for presentation template” and it took me a minute to come back to reality. Words can not express how deeply saddened I am for this extremely painful loss. Arthur was a mentor to me throughout my days in PRSSA and he was certainly one of the best aspects of my transition into becoming a professional. He was always there for me whenever I needed him, supporting me, guiding me and just being the best colleague and professional possible. He always made me laugh and always told it to me straight. He was a wonderful man. I will miss him so much and my thoughts and prayers are with Amy and Sofia and will continue to be for a very long time. Rest in peace Arthur.

  • I’m still quite devastated and in deep mourning after hearing the news from Stephanie Cegielski on the weekend. We’re going to do our own tribute post to Art Yann on PR Conversations a bit down the road (the same blog I interviewed him on in July 2011, “Arthur Yann: public relations in a fishbowl”), but one thing I’d like to emphasize here on the PRSay blog:

    Arthur Yann was not just a valued employee and member of PRSA. He was a respected and beloved member of the global public relations community.

    We mourn with his actual family (in particular, Amy and Sofia) and PRSA family in this great loss, but we should also keep in mind how much better we all are, as both public relations practitioners and as “generous” human beings for having known him.

    From Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:

    I hold it true, whate’er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all.

    • Well said, Judy, and very moving. Arthur was far more than your typical PR pro, not only in the wisdom of his counsel and expertise, but in terms of the person he was as he worked with you on a professional level. The PR professional could use many, many more Arthur Yanns within its ranks. He will be dearly missed.

  • While I did not know Arthur as well as others, I do know that his counsel and work made a tremendous positive impact on the PRSA brand and its reputation — and almost immediately. Thank you Arthur. My heart and best wishes are with his family.

  • Arthur was such a valuable asset to our PRSA Society team and to us as practitioners. I was honored to assist on the business model task force as he clearly and steadfastly displayed the reasons why we needed to raise our dues. My thoughts and prayers for his family and friends and to those in PRSA leadership who will obviously feel the void. Fair Winds and Following Seas Arthur Yann!

  • Arthur was an exceptional communicator and PR pro… But most importantly, he was a great friend.
    I had an opportunity to work very closely with Arthur for years and witnessed first-hand his leadership and deft hand in handling one critical initiative after another… But what I’ll remember most about Arthur is his sense of humor. Simply put, working with Arthur was fun. I always looked forward to collaborating with him because I knew that we would get a great deal done and have some laughs while doing so.
    Arthur’s death is a staggering loss. He left us way too soon and is sorely missed by so many of us…

Leave a Comment