Speech: Grace Leong, 2017 Agency Honoree


ALLYSON PARK: Good evening. My name is Allyson Park. I lead the worldwide Corporate Affairs team at Mars Wrigley Confectionary. It may be a company you haven’t heard of, but with Halloween days away, hopefully you’ve started to stock up on M&Ms, Snickers, Twix, Starburst. I’ll just stop there.

I’m lucky to have a really sweet job but over 20 years ago, I was starting out as a fresh-faced young Southerner in New York City. And I was even luckier at the time to have an even sweeter boss and mentor, Grace Leong.

Grace is known for her passion, her quest for excellence, her endless energy. She leads and inspires by example, has an infectious work ethic that makes those around her want to try harder, and she is a true advocate for our industry.

You know, a lot has changed in the past 20 years from when I first started with Grace as my boss. Thankfully, we’re no longer assembling clip reports using White-Out and a copier. And I hope you’re like me, where I’m no longer mailing slides and a press release to a reporter to pitch a story.

But what hasn’t changed is what sets Grace apart, and what makes her a leader in our field. She is CEO and Partner of Hunter Public Relations, with responsibility for 120 employees, over 100 brands, and it is the second largest consumer practice in the United States. Somehow, she and her husband, Todd, have raised four children, all whom are teenagers today.

And whether it’s giving back to her alma mater, which is the University of Delaware, or giving back to mine, the University of Florida, she is a true advocate for a career in the field of public relations. She taught me to dream big, hold true to my values, focus always on client service, be selective, and that no job, even diving into a dumpster, is too small.

You’re not here to hear from me tonight. It’s my honor to welcome to the podium this year’s Agency Honoree, Grace Leong.



GRACE LEONG: You know, thank you, Allyson. It’s a pleasure to accept this award from you, not only because you’re a wonderfully accomplished professional, but you’re also a caring and compassionate mom. And that means the world to me as another mom. So thank you, Allyson.

Now if you come to my office in New York City, you will see a quote from Picasso hanging next to my monitor. And the quote says, β€œThe purpose of life is to find your gift, and the meaning of life is to give it away.” Well, tonight we sit in a room, inspired by Betsy Plank, with 150 talented professionals who have found their gifts and are giving them away.

Bill, Jeff, Cheryl, Megan, Linda, you have the gift of being a teacher, and in your hands tonight you have a compass with Betsy Plank’s name on it. And that compass recognizes the great lengths you go to in sharing your gift with others.

Allyson Park, you have the gift of intelligence. You shared this with me the first day you walked into Hunter Public Relations as an honors graduate from the University of Florida. From day one, I will never forget how you used your smarts to invigorate our ideas, deepen our strategy and elevate our work.

Ron Culp – where is Ron Culp? Oh, hi, Ron Culp. You have the gift of generosity. For over 30, 40, 50 years – I don’t know, what is it, Ron?


RON CULP: Please.


GRACE LEONG: All right, we’ll go with 20. You have supported the public relations industry in the corporate, the agency, the nonprofit and the academic world. You bring people together, Ron, with your generous gifts and your inclusive spirit, and you make this industry better for all of us.

Samara and Donetta, my partners at Hunter Public Relations, you have been endowed with the gifts of humility and service to others. Every day I have the great pleasure of witnessing your gifts and how you use them to drive our business and counsel our clients and to develop the future leaders of this industry.

And then there’s my former boss, Barbara Hunter, my mentor. And who, like her pal, her pal Betsy Plank, was gifted with natural leadership and an unstoppable work ethic. These two pioneering women gifted me an example that I strive to match every day. I say it again, there is no greater reward in the business of public relations than finding your gift and giving it away.

I want to thank the members of The Plank Center for recognizing me with this mentoring award, and encouraging me every day to share it with the future leaders of this industry. Thank you.