A friend and colleague died recently. Joe Donovan was one of the influencers in higher ed PR in our Boomer generation.
Joe, who was the PR guru at Thomas Jefferson University, then LaSalle, was one of those very rare guys who always had a joke and told it well.
He was part of a small band headed by Penn State PR giant Art Ciervo that created the College and University Public Relations & Associated Professionals (CUPRAP).
I served on the CUPRAP board twice, the first time with Joe. In the board room he was quiet, thoughtful and serious when the time called for it, then lightened things up when got too serious. He helped set the direction of the organization which has since grown to encompass higher ed PR, publications and web professionals from several states.
It is the largest and probably the most respected organization of its kind in the U.S.
I write this because we tend to forget the Joe Donovans of the world. They’re the quiet ones who are all about sharing, even with the newest of newcomers. At conferences, Joe was the guy walking around to the young professionals, introducing himself and listening with intense interest to their stories and making them instantly feel part of the organization.
In the 25 years I knew him, I never heard Joe say a bad word about anyone. And I never heard anyone speak ill of him.
My friend and colleague Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications, was also on the ground floor of CUPRAP and worked closely with Joe for two decades.
“Joe D. was a raconteur,” he says. “He knew how to tell a story like a professional story teller which he was, of course. We all are story tellers, in this business of higher education public relations.
“Some are more effective than others, though, and Joe was one of the best. Like most funny people, he was a serious, substantive man. And if you needed advice, or sympathy, he was there for you, after a few laugh-producing stories, of course.
“He was highly respected in his home region of Philadelphia and around the state. Although a funny man, he was not a clown, never that, in any respect. He was a professional who knew his craft and everyone who worked with him recognized that. Joe was perhaps the perfect example of the man who takes his work seriously but never, never, himself.”
People like Joe quietly share and help turn a vision into reality. His intensity and commitment were softened by that mischievous and wise sense of humor that made you want to be near him, share his vision and work with him.
People like Joe are always too suddenly gone and with him that sense of life, laughter and celebrating one’s accomplishments with others.
I count my blessings that I worked with Joe, learned from him and shared jokes and stories. I I will remember him and look for a new Joe in the younger generations working their way up. I know they are out there — folks with that humor, heart and intellect — but they are indeed rare.
Dick summed up Joe’s life. “He was absolutely wonderful. I can’t think of him without smiling.”
My sentiments exactly.
Thank you, Joe. Where ever you are, I know there is warmth and laughter.