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.