NEW YORK: John “Jack” Felton, former president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, passed away on Saturday at age 84.
Felton began his career in PR after serving as an information officer in the US Air Force Strategic Air Command during the Korean War.
After the war, he took on a variety of assignments with US Steel in San Francisco, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh before joining Interstate Brands as director of PR and public affairs in l969.
He left Interstate to join McCormick in l975 and was elected a corporate VP in l977.
Felton served as president of the Public Relations Society of America from 1985 to 1986 and was inducted into the college of fellows in 1990.
In 1995, Felton embarked on a career in education, helping to establish the Institute for Public Relations Research (IPR) at the University of Florida. He stepped down in 2005 after 10 years there.
He retired from teaching and as president and CEO of the Institute nine years later.
During his time at IPR, Felton was instrumental in establishing its measurement commission and had the “Golden Ruler Award” for measurement excellence named after him.
Felton won several awards for his work over the years. In l989, he was the first to receive the “Outstanding Public Relations Professional” award for the state of Maryland. In l992, he was the recipient of the Golden Anvil award from the PRSA.
He was awarded the David Ferguson Award “for outstanding contributions to PR education” from the Educators Academy of PRSA in 1999. In September 2002, he received the Arthur W. Page Society's “Distinguished Service Award” in recognition of his contributions to strengthening the role of public relations.
Outside of his PR work, Felton wrote plays, edited books, and composed songs. He had eight plays published by Bakers Plays, as well as the film The Bread Winners.
In l974, he was awarded the George Washington Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for a play Segments in Stained Glass. Another of his plays, Peace is an Olive Color, was produced for public TV to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the state of Michigan.
“Jack Felton was a mentor that knew how to break it to you gently or to kick you in the rear as the occasion required,” said Frank Ovaitt, president and CEO of IPR. “He was a storyteller of the first rank. Most of all, he was a friend like no other. Everybody says that about Jack, and it's so very true.”
Ovaitt added that “Jack led the Institute for Public Relations through an intense period of transition.”
“To this day, so much of what IPR is known for started under Jack. I will miss him professionally, and, even more, personally,” he said.
Ron Culp, instructor and professional director for PR and the advertising master's program at DePaul University, knew Felton for 30 years. He said Felton had a “bigger-than-life personality” and was “always positive and encouraging others.”
“He was a great mentor, but often said he personally learned more during the process of helping others,” Culp noted.
Felton is survived by his three children and six grandchildren.