Powerful Women, Powerful Messages
By Pamela Hill Nettleton
These three SJMC alumnae are making their mark on the strategic communictions industry--from the corner office.
Christine Fruechte, President, Colle + McVoy
Christine Fruechte (B.A. '89) is excited--but that's nothing unusual. The president of the fifth largest advertising agency in the Twin Cities, Colle + McVoy, has a reputation for doing nothing by halves.
Today she's not talking about how she once created a Campbell Mithun marketing division for children called KidCom Worldwide, or how she helped turn Kerker into a full-service agency, or even her devotion to Free Arts Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that connects the arts and children in need--but she could list those and many more accomplishments that have earned her national recognition and respect. Today, she's talking about her years at the University of Minnesota inside Murphy Hall.
"The U gives you so many options," says Fruechte. The one she picked: Bachelor of Independent Studies, which allowed her to combine speech communications, marketing, and journalism with an advertising focus. "When I look back at the U, I think of unlimited possibilities: so many career paths with no barriers, vibrant mentor programs, the leadership of professors like Al Tims and Dan Wackman. And AdClub is a gold mine!"
Two years ago, Fruechte returned to Murphy Hall to speak to AdClub, and was "blown away by the caliber of students, and how many called to network and ask about internships." Her own three internships before graduating gave her lifelong friends and mentors, including Gail Shore, at the U's Women's Athletic Department. "I am not a jock, and I thought, 'What am I doing here?'" says Fruechte. "But as an intern, I learned a ton."
Shore was the first of a line of great bosses who also had ties to SJMC, says Fruechte. After graduating, she was hired by SJMC alum Howard Liszt (B.A. '68), then CEO of Campbell Mithun (Liszt is now a Senior Fellow in the SJMC). Two of her colleagues at Campell Mithun, John Purdy and John Rash, are now SJMC adjuncts. "The caliber of advertising professors is so high," she says. "You have the best of the best." At Colle + McVoy, she reports to another SJMC alum: John Jarvis (B.A. '80, M.A. '83), the company's CEO and chief creative officer.
Come summer, Colle + McVoy hires a dozen or so interns, and Fruechte has this advice for students seeking those positions: network with SJMC alumni. "Figure out who in your field of interest is a J-school graduate at which agencies and call them," she says. "People want to help students--they don't really say 'no,' so try!" For the interns she herself hires, Fruechte looks for what she has in abundance herself: "Going above and beyond in school duties. A lively interest in life. And intellectual passion."
She feels lucky to have discovered her own passion early on. "Advertising is in your DNA, it runs in your blood," she says. "I love what I do. I'm an entrepreneur by nature--I take risks and look for opportunity to make an impact and shape an organization. Helping people excel is what I'm passionate about."
Lynn Casey, Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Padilla Speer Beardsley
"Something compelled me to walk into Murphy Hall," says Lynn Casey (M.A. '80). "One of the first people I met was Professor Ed Emery, who was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I was captivated." A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Dakota, Casey enrolled in the SJMC's graduate program in Mass Communication. "I knew quickly that I did not want to be a journalist, I wanted to be an advocate," she says.
In a public relations course taught by Willard Thompson, Casey learned she could use her writing skills and her strategic thinking abilities to "make a contribution to the world." She remembers Thompson fondly. "He was a wonderful mentor for me. He modeled what a good PR person could be. He was concerned with what students do in the world, and I'll never forget him for that."
Casey accepted an internship at Ramsey County's program for foster care, where she developed the state's first public relations campaign for foster home recruitment. "We enlisted friends to help and it was a modest program, but we moved the needle," Casey says. "I was hooked. I learned I could make a difference."
Her second internship was at the Burlington Northern Railroad, which led to a position there as marketing communications manager. She joined Padilla Speer Beardsley, the second-largest public relations firm in the Twin Cities, in 1983. She was made vice president in 1987, senior vice president in 1991, chief operating officer in 1997, and chief executive officer in 2001.
Though that looks like a well-orchestrated career path, Casey laughs at the idea. "I plan for my company, I plan for my clients, but I am not introspective and planful for myself," she says, preferring to navigate by intuition. "Every experience, you learn from," she says. "If things are too planned, you might miss great opportunities."
As CEO, Casey succeeded boss and mentor John Beardsley, who was only the second head of a company known for a strong sense of continuity and a commitment to client service. It doesn't feel like staying in one place, says Casey. The tremendous variety of public relations work and the clients themselves make each day's work unique. "We have a reputation for keeping half our heart in our client's business and half our heart in the agency. If you keep a client at arm's-length, it won't work."
Back in high school, Casey's "well-meaning principal announced that she was pleased that I might be a grade school English teacher someday." Meant as a compliment, the comment never felt like a limitation to Lynn, who now runs a company of more than 80 employees in Minneapolis and New York City. And she encourages young people considering PR as a career to shrug off limitations as well: "Think outside the box and stay in the game, not on the sidelines," she says. "And never take 'no' for an answer."
Kim Olson, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, Carlson Companies
She's fascinated by entertainment personalities, took her daughter to the Golden Globes for her 13th birthday, and thinks one of the coolest perks of her new gig is flying around on a company jet. Well, who wouldn't?
Kim Olson (B.A. '88) is the first-ever chief communications officer of Carlson Companies, a global leader in marketing, travel, and hospitality and one of the largest privately held corporations in the country.
"Part of the reason I'm here is that when I was heading the women's forum at General Mills, we invited Marilyn Nelson [the chairman and CEO of Carlson] to be a keynote speaker," says Olson. "She came in and did two things that really impressed me. She talked about business as a force for good. And she had one of those purses covered with photographs that she set on the podium, saying 'I'm not going to talk to 250 people and not show off my grandchildren!' I thought, if the most powerful woman in tourism can get up there and talk about her family, I want to work for her." In December 2006, Olson will celebrate her one year anniversary at Carlson, where she directs all communications for the company and serves on the executive leadership committee.
Her path to her position began in Murphy Hall. "The SJMC had an extraordinary placement and internship program," says Olson. "They placed a lot of my friends and surfaced a lot of opportunities. The School also had an extraordinary connection to the business world. There was one class where we had business leaders come in and talk--Dick Youngblood, Dave Mona, Scott Meyer--and those were the people I ended up working with."
Olson interned at Dorn Swenson Meyer, which became Mona Meyer McGrath, and forged a network of colleagues she's worked with on-and-off for years. "The best advice I ever got was from Dave Mona, who is also a SJMC alum," says Olson. "Dave was always so relaxed, no matter what happening. He told me, 'The secret is to have enough in your life so that when something isn't going right over here, you simply look over there.'"
After working at Xcel Energy, she moved to Weber Shandwick, where she headed global client service. Then, at General Mills, she headed brand public relations with an "extraordinarily good and talented staff. I loved that job." Her resume covers it all: PR, ad agency, and corporate communications. "I've done the trifecta," she laughs. "I discovered that my personality wants to be in high profile action--corporate communication."
Though it was "painful" to leave GeneraAugust 29, 2006unity and an expansive role in an industry I fundamentally love," says Olson, "I had to do it. I'm not necessarily a foodie, but I am a travel and hospitality fanatic!"
Olson claims three secrets of success: "I've had a succession of wonderful bosses and I've had extraordinary teams of people working for me," she says. "And, I've been very, very lucky."
A Powerful Woman With a Powerful Message: Remembering Bev Kees
Strategic communication isn't the only area where SJMC alumna have made their mark. Many women have become successful professional journalists after leaving Murphy Hall, and have helped change the landscape of journalism--traditionally a male-dominated industry--across the nation.
That landscape was tragically altered in December 2004, when Beverly Kees (B.A. '63) was killed in a traffic accident in her hometown of San Francisco. Kees earned a degree in journalism from the SJMC and after graduation, taught courses in the School while working as a reporter for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in the 1960s and 70s. Kees was a business reporter for the paper and also spearheaded the development of the "Taste" and "Variety" sections.
In 1981, she left Minneapolis to become the executive editor of the Grand Forks (ND) Herald, becoming the first woman to lead a paper in the Knight-Ridder chain. She went on to become the editor of the Post-Tribune in Gary, IN, and then the executive editor of the Fresno Bee in California. In the early 1990s, Kees took a fellowship at the Freedom Forum at Vanderbilt University, and after a year, returned to California as a senior executive for the Forum's Pacific Coast Center. At the time of her death, Kees was teaching journalism classes at San Francisco State University and freelancing for several newspapers in addition to her work with the Forum.
On September 18, 2005, the SJMC held a memorial for Kees in Murphy Hall, attended by more than 100 of her family and friends. In attendance were "The Slumberettes," a group of women journalists who were befriended and mentored by Kees in the 1970s during her time at the Minneapolis paper: Kate Parry, now the Star Tribune reader's representative; Lynda McDonnell '72, who teaches journalism at St. Paul's St. Thomas Univeristy; Catherine Watson '67, the Star Tribune's first travel editor and a nationally-known travel writer; Bonnie Rubin, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune; Marilyn Hoegemeyer, a now-retired editor for the Star Tribune; and Peg Meier, a now-retired reporter for the Star Tribune.
Over the years, the women continued their friendship with Kees, who would host them at her various homes around the country for weekends. They took to calling themselves "The Slumberettes" because of the "slumber party" feel to these weekends, and they all considered Kees a mentor, an inspiration, and a dear friend. At the Murphy Hall memorial, Kate Parry read the following tribute to Kees from all the Slumberettes:
A Tribute from the Slumberettes
"It's hard to remember how different it was for those first women who served as top editors in newsrooms. The Slumberettes worked for Bev when she started down that difficult career path in a very male-dominated world.
"At the Minneapolis Tribune in the 1970s, Bev was the only woman in top management. She was blonde, stylish, discreet and demure. But it was a mistake to assume she wasn't also tough. Bev was steely; those clear blue eyes boring holes in balky reporters. We were terrified of her and entranced, all at once. She worked us hard and we reached higher and further than we thought we could."
"When she left Minneapolis to become the first female executive editor in Knight Ridder - off in Grand Forks, North Dakota - she invited two of us out for the weekend. On the flight, we laughed about how we would ask her to plump our pillows - giggling at the absurdity. But our relationship with Bev was changing. She met us on the tarmac at the Grand Forks Airport. The terminal, ringed in neon, looked like a diner out on prairie so flat you could see the horizon curve. She whisked us off to her elegant home, where she plumped our pillows and pampered us endlessly."
"No longer her employees, we were becoming her protégés and friends. Bev had a lot to teach us - about fine wine, divine food, old movies; about whole days lounging in our pajamas in her living room; about raucous humor punctuated by quick lectures on leading, writing, newsroom politics."
"We found her irresistible and we followed her around the country, from Grand Forks to Gary to Fresno and to San Francisco. She began to call us The Slumberettes and joked once that she stored up all her maternal instincts to shower on us during our weekend visits. Bev served us grand meals on fine china, set bowls of Hershey's kisses on the coffee table and put old movies about journalism in the VCR. We talked late and long, about journalism, children, old friends, new challenges."
"She listened and laughed with her uncommonly civilized mix of graciousness and reserve. We teased her about a shoe collection that rivaled Imelda's and sent her fancy shoe ornaments for her Christmas tree from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We belted out Broadway show tunes en route to Yosemite and sunned ourselves around her Fresno pool like starlets."
"She loved L'Air du Temps perfume and swirling capes. Her favorite word of praise was 'splendid,' and she was funny - often about herself. She said she had always intended to meet and marry an English lord, 'but you know how it is. You get busy..."
"We were so lucky to have her in our lives."
"She was the glue that kept all of us together long after we scattered in different directions. That urge to stay bound to one another across time and space is a legacy from Bev we will cherish. We've all gone on to successful newspaper careers in a business that can be bruising. We don't forget for a minute that it's been easier for us because of women such as Bev."