How it all began …

Thanks to the recollections of Bob Gernert, APR, CPRC, and Patsy Trubow Hollister, APR, CPRC, here is a little history of how Florida Public Relations Education Foundation (FPREF)began.

During the early 1980s, an effort was made to reinstate and reactivate some FPRA programs and projects that had fallen by the wayside during the mid-1970s. One area the FPRA Executive Committee wanted to reinvigorate was fundraising for professional development projects and scholarships. This became a goal of 1984’s FPRA President, Patsy Trubow Hollister, APR, CPRC.

The Executive Director at the time was William “Bill” Fenton, Jr., APR. Bill was notorious for wearing a loud gold and black brocade jacket for formal association functions – Patsy still refers to it as the world’s ugliest tuxedo jacket. Bob recalls that the jacket may have been better suited to the wardrobe of Liberace. Bill had taken a fair amount of good-natured ribbing over the years, with many members begging him to retire it. However, Patsy recalls that he always resisted – firmly.

As the year rolled around and planning was apace for the Annual Conference, which was to be held in the fall at The Breakers Palm Beach, Patsy teamed up with Bill’s wife. They eventually convinced him to allow FPRA to cut the jacket off his back and auction the pieces to the highest bidder. The auction was to be held at a reception on the first night of that 1984 conference. Patsy remembers using a huge pair of shears to cut Bill’s jacket off in pieces: half a sleeve, a lapel, a shoulder, even pocket squares, which allowed members to bid on each piece of fabric. Bill was an excellent sport about it and even toasted each winning bidder as he strutted around in his slowly disintegrating jacket. The event was funny, entertaining, and raised quite a bit of money!

Bob remembers Patsy saying at the time that auctioning Bill’s jacket was part of her “beautify FPRA campaign.” She said that the event is one of her favorite FPRA memories and counts among her best accomplishments as FPRA president.

The outlandish event breathed new life into the languished fundraising efforts and was effectively the catalyst for creating a foundation. It was a fun and creative start, but formalization was still needed to devote the necessary attention to make it successful.

It took the work and focus of two more FPRA Executive Committees. The Articles of Incorporation for the Florida Public Relations Education Foundation were formally signed on November 20, 1986. The owner of that jacket himself, William “Bill” Fenton, Jr., was named FPREF’s agent and first President. John W. Dillin was named the first Vice President, and Bob E. Gernert, Jr. served as the first Secretary and Treasurer.

FPREF remains a formal, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to advancing the public relations profession within Florida. The 2021-2022 Foundation Board consists of thirteen members, five officers and eight board members.

Today’s areas of focus include:

The Florida Public Relations Education Foundation (FPREF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to the advancement of the public relations profession within the state of Florida.

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