Thursday, December 11, 2014

Donna Mikels Shea to be Honored as 2014's 'Indy PR Legend'

Donna Mikels Shea -- who blazed trails in Indiana journalism and created the CASPER Awards, which celebrate news reports that better our communities -- will be honored as the recipient of the 2014 “Indy PR Legend Award.” The Indianapolis Public Relations Society will be present the award to Shea at IPRS’ monthly luncheon meeting on Wednesday, December 17, at Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle.

The public is invited to join in the tribute, which will include remarks from several people who have worked closely with the honoree through the years.

Hired while in high school by her hometown paper, the Marion Leader-Tribune, Donna Mikels Shea joined the Indianapolis Times in 1943 and became one of Indiana’s best-known journalists. She interviewed newsmakers such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower (masquerading as a maid to gain entrance to the presidential candidate’s hotel room), and she made a mark with reports that focused on social issues that needed attention – stories that brought change to Indiana institutions.  Her series of reports on the challenges faced by mentally disabled led to the creation of Noble Centers.

"What I saw as a reporter made me want to change what was going on," Shea has said of the impetus to create the CASPER Awards in 1954.  The program honors journalists for stories that result in community improvements.

Donna Mikels Shea became the first-ever female assistant city editor of the Times before leaving the world of journalism in 1956 to focus on her family.  But she continued to impact the industry in the subsequent  58 years.  She lobbied media outlets to focus on issues such as health care and racial segregation, and created a news media handbook that had 3,000 subscribers.  Inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, she has also served as a sounding board for public relations professionals and not-for-profit organizations in their dealings with news outlets.

“Indiana communicators, and the citizens of this state, owe much to Donna for her vision, tenacity and for helping news organizations see the value in focusing on things that can better our communities,”says IPRS President Bob Schultz, who professionally serves as the vice president of marketing and communications for Downtown Indy. “The respect for Donna and her lifelong contributions  to our community conversations make her a ‘legend’ and we look forward to celebrating this special honor with her.”

Ken Owen, executive director of media relations at DePauw University and a former Indianapolis TV news anchor (WISH, WRTV and WXIN) will emcee the award ceremony.

The Indy PR Legend Award was first presented in 2008 to James R. Hetherington, long-time Indianapolis journalist and public relations executive. The 2009 honoree was Robert L. Gildea, senior vice-president of Sease, Gerig & Associates, and Myra Borshoff Cook, principal of Borshoff, was the 2010 recipient. Carl Henn, executive producer of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, was the 2011 award winner. Longtime PR and communications professional Ann Rein was the 2012 honoree, while Gretchen Wolfram, retired communications director for Lilly Endowment, was last year’s award recipient.

The Indianapolis Public Relations Society, formed in 1949, is a limited membership organization comprised of senior level public relations personnel.

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