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March 23, 2011

PRSA Mourns the Loss of Chester Burger, APR, Fellow PRSA

Industry pioneer was a member of the inaugural class of the PRSA College of Fellows
NEW YORK (March 23, 2011) — The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) mourns the loss of Chester Burger, APR, Fellow PRSA, who passed away March 22, following a brief illness. Burger was 90.
“The public relations industry would not have such a rich history, relevance or value to businesses and the public were it not for the immense accomplishments of Chester Burger,” said Rosanna Fiske, APR, PRSA’s 2011 chair and CEO. “His work advocating on behalf of public relations’ value within the television industry was instrumental in the maturation and credibility of the profession. We owe a debt of gratitude to Chester’s lifelong work, and he will forever be in the hearts and minds of colleagues and the PRSA family.”
Building Public Relations’ Value in Television News
Burger was instrumental in the establishment of public relations’ value within the television news industry. After joining CBS in 1941 as a page boy, he became the network’s first television news reporter in April 1946. He left the company in 1955 after rising to the position of national manager of CBS Television News.
During World War II, he produced the Army’s first television broadcasts as part of his service in the United States Army Air Corps.
One of the world’s leading media consultants, Burger wrote a report for AT&T in 1955 titled, “Telephone News on Television,” which established the value of public relations within the television news industry and the medium’s marketing potential. In that report, Burger noted, “A medium as important as television, therefore, should receive important consideration in any public relations program”
Global Recognition
Burger’s tireless work advocating on behalf of the profession and its value earned him numerous honors and awards throughout his 50-plus-year career.
After being awarded with PRSA’s highest individual honor, the Gold Anvil, in 1987, he was among the members of the inaugural class of the PRSA College Fellows, which was formed in 1989. The initial class of Fellows comprised previous winners of the PRSA Gold Anvil Award.
He was a founder of the Black Executive Exchange Program and received the Outstanding Mentor Award “for 21 years of counsel and support to minorities in public relations.” The United Negro College Fund awarded him its Distinguished Service citation. He is a Life Member of the NAACP, and Health Advocates for Older People, a New York-based social-service organization, designated him “a New York Treasure.”
The United States Information Agency presented Burger with its Award for Outstanding Service to America’s public diplomacy efforts.
In August 2010, Michael Donley, secretary of the United States Air Force, presented Burger the Distinguished Public Service Award for his 15 years of volunteer service as an Air Force advocate under the Public Affairs Advisory Group in New York City.
Lifelong Service to the Profession
Burger joined PRSA in 1955. He noted in the fall 2007 issue of The Public Relations Strategist that his first PRSA meeting “so impressed me that I immediately applied for a membership that has gone uninterrupted for [56] years.”
He retired in 1988 from Chester Burger & Co. Inc., the nation’s first communications management consulting firm. An author of six books on management subjects, including “The Chief Executive,” his lifetime work in photography was acquired for the permanent collections of the New York Historical Society and the New York Public Library. The Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin, houses his lifetime papers.
On Jan. 10, Burger’s 90th birthday, The PRSA Foundation announced that is it partnering with the Arthur W. Page Society and the Institute for Public Relations to provide the initial grants to establish the Chester Burger Scholarship for Excellence in Public Relations.
Pledges to the scholarship fund may be made to the PRSA Foundation by contacting Philip Bonaventura.
Details of services will be available shortly. Further updates, including information on events recognizing Burger’s achievements, will be posted on the PRSA website.
About the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
With more than 31,000 members, PRSA is the largest organization of public relations professionals and students. PRSA is comprised of 112 local Chapters organized into 10 geographic Districts; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on issues, trends and research relevant to specialized practice areas, such as technology, health care, financial communications, entertainment and sports, and travel tourism; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has more than 300 Chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. PRSA is headquartered in New York.

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