Gary McCormick Receives PRSA’s Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service


On November 8, 2015, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) awarded Gary D. McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Plank Center board member, the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service. The award is named in honor of the late and legendary Patrick Jackson, APR, Fellow PRSA, a widely known and respected practitioner in the public relations profession. It is intended to recognize a PRSA member who has significantly contributed to advancing PRSA from the Chapter to National levels, as well as furthered the Society by inspiring fellow practitioners professionally and personally.

Gary’s leadership, board service, deep commitment to the ideals of the late Betsy Plank and devotion to our profession have guided the work and service of students and professionals everywhere. Those in attendance can attest to Gary’s heartfelt speech, which energized the room to give back to the public relations profession. Most of all, to serve this profession, “you must be present to win.” 


12190919_1025162494172344_5130423420064300778_nFirst, let me say, “Thank you,” to the PRSA National Board and the PRSA Honors and Awards Committee for this recognition. In an organization like ours where hundreds of members give of their time and talents every day to make us successful, to be singled out for this honor makes it even more rewarding and humbling.

To receive an award for giving back to this organization is somewhat ironic. I can’t begin to tell you in this short amount of time how much PRSA has given to me – personally and professionally.  To put it into context for you, let me tell you a story of how I came to be a member of PRSA almost three decades ago.

Although my university chartered a PRSSA Chapter my senior year, I had a full time job on a daily newspaper during college and a public relations job in line for me when I graduated. When the call came out to “join,” I quickly decided I didn’t need to be a part of a club and was already well on my way to a brilliant career.

Fast forward in that career ten years plus, and while it hadn’t been meteoric, I had done pretty well. But it wasn’t until a new boss invited me to a PRSA meeting, that the organization was even back on my radar. I’m not sure I would even have entertained joining then, but she strongly urged me to become a member, and if she (well…the company) was paying for it – I better become active!

Little did I know what a pivotal moment that was for me. It wasn’t until reflection years later that I realized that by not being a part of PRSA, I had lost more than 10 years of networking and development. It wasn’t hard to decide from that point forward to invest even more in myself through “active” membership in PRSA.

Since then PRSA has taken me to Barcelona, Spain, Stockholm, Sweden, Lima, Peru and countless cities across our country where I made lasting friendships and valuable networks. I helped shape changes in our profession as well as mentor young professionals who, today, have achieved success far beyond my own.

But if I can leave you with one thought from what is the “gratuitous thank you” speech, it would be this simple phrase and understanding, which epitomizes my advice and summarizes my service:  You Must Be Present to Win!

In other words, if you join and don’t engage, you lose. Be in the moment and make the most of it. Don’t wait for others to ask you in. Because, if you join – volunteer, serve and become an active part of PRSA, the rewards will be amazing. You’ll rub elbows and learn from the experts. You’ll find opportunities that are not available anywhere else – both personal and professional. For that matter, in all you do, put down your phones, be present and you will win every day.

Thank you again for this award. When I joined PRSA and discovered the amazing PR Legends that surrounded me, I would never have imagined my name being in the same context as Patrick Jackson, the namesake and inspiration for this award and Betsy Plank, its first recipient. That adds to make this an honor that I will forever treasure.

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