OBITUARY: Cincinnati firm HSR loses young talent in car crash

CINCINNATI: Three PR people from agency HSR Business to Business died in a car crash while on their way to a client meeting on January 16.

CINCINNATI: Three PR people from agency HSR Business to Business died in a car crash while on their way to a client meeting on January 16.

The accident occurred in snowy conditions that morning as a four-person team was driving to Indianapolis.

Kevin Dugan, a senior public relations consultant at HSR, survived the accident. He has had reconstructive surgery on his arm, said Richard Segal, CEO of HSR.

Killed were Barbara Conry-Dressman, a VP; Patrick Cunningham, a client-service executive; and Kevin Pfirrman, a public relations consultant.

"These were all three, bright, talented, creative, thoughtful professionals," said Segal. "We're grieving mightily here at HSR. We are just so sorrowful for the loss of these dear colleagues and the grief their families are bearing."

Individual funeral services for all three were held January 20. Agency staffers spent the day attending the three ceremonies, Segal noted.

Conry-Dressman, 31, held a master's degree in national securities studies from Georgetown. Segal said he often joked with her that "there weren't many firms that had their own national security advisor."

She started her career at the Cato Institute, a Washington, DC think tank.

"She was one of the smartest people I ever met. She just had a razor-sharp mind, yet was one of the most delightful people," said Ted Carpenter, VP for defense and foreign policy studies at the Institute. Conry-Dressman served as his deputy from 1993 through the spring of 1998.

She moved to Cincinnati to marry, and began her first stint at HSR. She left for Porter Novelli in 2001, working in both the New York and Chicago offices, before returning to HSR in 2002.

"I was always intent that I would convince her to return here," Segal said. She had been back at HSR "only for a short time, but she was well into her stride."

Cunningham, 36, had lived in Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1990 to 1993, managing business-development projects in South and Southeast Asia.

In the late 1990s, he too worked in Washington, DC, managing projects in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Zambia, and the Philippines for an international development organization.

At HSR, he was responsible for coordinating marketing communications, public relations, and e-business initiatives for a number of clients.

"I don't think we've ever had anyone in the firm who consistently has gotten higher marks from his clients," Segal said.

Cunningham held a master's degree in international development and South Asian philosophy from Ohio University, where he had graduated cum laude.

He earned his bachelor's degree in marketing/advertising from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Pfirrman, 27, joined HSR last year as a PR consultant. He had served as an account executive with J. Malsh & Company in Cincinnati, overseeing marketing communications projects for Comair/Delta Connection, the Episcopal Community Services Foundation, and other clients.

A Silver Anvil winner, he held a bachelor's degree in public relations with a minor in marketing from Kent State University in Ohio.

Pfirrman "in many ways was just getting started in his PR career," said Segal.

Segal shut the agency down January 16 after receiving news of the accident from the Indiana State Police. The agency reopened the next day, but its 63 remaining employees were allowed to take time off if they wished.

For information on memorial funds, visit www.hsr.com.

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