Over the holidays, we lost a great leader and friend to the field, Lou Williams. Lou Williams was an integral part of the Institute for Public Relations. He served as an IPR Trustee starting in 2002, thanks to being recruited by his friend Ward White, who passed away in 2016. In 2007, he became an Honorary Trustee and continued to be engaged until his death. Lou made tremendous contributions to the IPR Measurement Commission and served as an IPR Research Fellow. When I first started my role at IPR, Lou told me his call to action would be how to better interest, educate, and engage practitioners around research. He started doing this more than 30 years ago with a two-day conference he created in the 1980s along with writing his best-selling book Communication Research, Measurement and Evaluation: A Practical Guide for Communicators.
On a personal note, Lou was an amazing man—brilliant, funny, engaging, and lots of fun. I remember seeing him at the International Public Relations Research Conference, and he always made an effort to counsel students and those starting out in the profession. Whenever I spoke with him, he would always talk about the time I called to tell him he won an award when he was in the middle of Lake Michigan doing one of his favorite things, sailing. Lou will be greatly missed and always remembered.
Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR
President & CEO
Institute for Public Relations
IPR wanted to pay tribute to Lou. Below are memories offered by some of his closest friends and colleagues:
When I moved to Chicago to lead Ketchum’s office in 1991, I received a call within the first month from Lou Williams. He had organized a monthly luncheon for agency heads to gather, talk about our business and socialize. He called it “Chow & Gab,” and it was always great fun.
I remember meeting him at our first luncheon. He was gracious, welcoming, warm and full of fun — traits he always showed through the 27 years I’ve known him. He was a leader who valued being with other leaders, working with teams and advancing our profession through research.
One spring he told me he was taking his sailboat on a summer-long trip, navigating throughout Lake Michigan. He had a love for being on the water with his wife, Mary Moster, and it became his life even when he battled cancer through the years.
I saw him last with Mary at Ward White’s funeral in Milwaukee. Having regained strength in his fight with cancer, his eyes sparkled and he was in great spirits as he spoke about his treatments and his days in Michigan. That day, he was the Lou Williams I always remember — energized, interested in others, reflective and thoughtful.
We will miss him. He played a very large role in advancing public relations in Chicago through his firm.
Grayson Emmett Partners
I am sure that many will have better stories than I (some of which could not be told!). However, apart from Lou’s sharp mind, and commitment to professional development, the IPR and commission in particular, he had an amazing love of life, sense of humor and enjoyment of wine!
As a respected colleague, friend, professional leader and mentor, Lou Williams will be sorely missed by all who had the chance to work with and get to know him. Lou was farsighted in recognizing internal communications as a critical dimension of organizational effectiveness and he built a highly successful agency model around it. He was an early advocate of the importance of research to communications programming and placed research at the forefront of his firm’s agenda at a time when others did not. While Lou had great passion for flying and sailing and his family, it was when he married Mary Moster that he really enjoyed life to its fullest extent. Thanks Lou for giving us your all, for sharing your intellect, giving back and setting an example for us all.
MP Gonring Associates
Lauri Grunig and I take joy in remembering all of the wonderful times we had working with Lou Williams and the inspiration we received from him when we were conducting the IABC Excellence project as well as co-members of the Measurement Commission and as IPR fellows. At the time of the Excellence study, Lou was an influential member of the board of the IABC Research Foundation
We vividly recall the first meeting of the Excellence research team to launch the study in August 1985 at the University of Maryland. We remember that Lou’s ideas shaped the project more than those of anyone else at the meeting. When someone asked what we should name the project, Lou said “maybe we should call it “In Search of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management,” borrowing from the title of the famous Peters and Waterman book published shortly before that time. After a little deliberation, we decided to drop the words “In Search of” from the title to avoid copying Peters and Waterman too closely. However, the title stuck and the Excellence study has remained important and relevant for over 15 years and it is always remembered as the “Excellence Study.”
I also remember my visits with Lou to several potential donors for the project in New York, including with Frank Ovaitt, who then was working for the AT&T Foundation. I also remember the numerous times that Lou defended the project and came to our rescue when we missed a deadline and needed support from the IABC Foundation board.
Working with Lou on the Measurement Commission and as IPR Fellows also was a great honor and pleasure. I think that Lou will go down in history as one of the great minds in public relations and communication management. More importantly, he will be remembered as a kind and caring person who is loved by everyone in our profession. It has been a great honor to know and work with him for many years.
James E. (Jim) Grunig
University of Maryland (Professor Emeritus)
Very sad. Lou was a “class act” and gave his very best to the IPR. He will be sorely missed.
When I was a newly-minted IPR Measurement Commissioner, I was overwhelmed by all the learned scholars in my midst. But one of those scholars, Lou Williams, would have none of it. Encouraging me from the get-go, Lou became a friend and ‘sometime’ mentor who encouraged my contributions to the Commission. Later, when my employer went bankrupt, Lou counseled me to start my own measurement firm – which went very well. Lou’s incredible availability, kindness and brilliance meant more to me than I can say. IPR and IPRRC meetings will never be the same.
Angela Jeffrey, APR
Advertising Benchmark Index
Nobody knows better than the IPR staff how much Lou brought to the party in terms of helping us run a successful, effective organization. But when I think about the Lou I knew best, two episodes come to mind – one emphasizing how much fun he was, the other how serious he was about advancing the public relations profession.
Regarding the first, I’ll never forget the time he showed up for an IPRRC party in a plumber’s shirt that said “Big Lou.” God only knows where he got it, but no one was surprised that he had talked some plumber out of his shirt.
The second was how I met Lou in the first place. Decades ago, he came to my office pitching what would become “The Excellence Study,” arguably the most essential research project in the history of our profession. What a memorable way to meet Lou!
Institute for Public Relations (CEO Emeritus)
Lou was a real life force; full of energy, strong opinions, high ideals and a sense of humor. I loved hearing him share his points of view during Measurement Commission meetings; he did so with integrity but also with humor and a smile. And, I will miss his laugh. He was an adventurer, exploring the world by land, air and sea. And he loved to try new things, such as wood turning. I fondly remember an evening we shared in Provo, Utah, when he was attending a wood turning workshop. While enjoying a fine meal, we shared many stories and, for that moment, it was as if we were best friends.
Lou has left a legacy with his ideas, ideals and practice. He will always be remembered by his peers and friends, and I’m grateful that I can count myself among them.
Dr. Brad L. Rawlins
Arkansas State Campus Querétaro (Vice Rector)
There was always a twinkle in Lou’s eyes whenever we met and talked about the power of our profession to make the world a better place. It was always a pleasure learning from Lou, because he understood that a workplace that truly valued its employees treated them with respect, openness and honesty—and his greatest pleasure was helping these organizations find their way there. Lou’s passion, insights and warmth was unsurpassed. I will miss him greatly and wish him peace on this, his next journey.
Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA
Jackson, Jackson, & Wagner
New York Times columnist David Brooks has written and spoken about living by “Resume Values” vs “Eulogy Values” — Do we want what’s on our LinkedIn page to be recited at our funeral? (Or vice versa?)
It seems that Lou Williams was one of those distinctive people whose Resume Values and Eulogy Values were totally the same. His values as a professional and as a person were aligned.
Would it be so for the rest of us.
Franklin Walton LLC