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By Jessika  White,  Plank  Center       Today’s  Peacock  is  Tomorrow’s  Feather  Duster     Don  Kirchoffner  (posthumously)  is  this  year’s   recipient  of  the  Plank  Center’s  “Milestones  in   Mentoring”  Legacy  Award.  This  award  recognizes   those  who  have  touched  the  lives  of  countless   public  relations  professionals  over  the  course  of   their  exceptional  career.       Don  was  an  accomplished  executive  known  for   creating  and  implementing  strategic   communications  that  proactively  addressed  a   broad  array  of  challenges  with  innovation,   foresight  and  action.  Keith  Burton,  partner  with   Brunswick  Group,  says,  “Don  was  a  giant  in  the  PR   profession.  While  he  was  a  soldier  at  heart,  he  also   was  a  consummate  practitioner  of  our  craft.”       The  number  of  lives  Don  impacted  along  his   journey  is  unknown,  but  Don’s  influence  continues  to  live  on.  Don’s   accomplishments  exemplify  the  true  meaning  of  the  “Milestones  in  Mentoring”   Legacy  Award.     Don’s  daughter,  Megan  Kirchoffner  Krase,  shares  her  father’s  legacy,  advice  and   wisdom  with  the  Plank  Center:       Q:  Describe  your  dad’s  role  as  a  mentor.   A:  I  have  to  believe  my  dad  didn’t  start  out  his  career  knowing  that  he’d  have  such  a   knack  for  mentoring  others.    But  I  certainly  think  this  skill  came  quite  gracefully   once  he  realized  the  impact  of  his  leadership  and  the  effect  that  this  had  on  others.         He  truly  believed  that  you  could  do  anything  you  set  your  mind  to  and  I  watched   him  mentor  countless  friends,  colleagues  and  complete  strangers  who  aspired  to  do   what  we  might  think  is  unattainable.    Upon  his  passing,  I  received  an  overwhelming   number  of  emails  and  notes  sharing  stories  about  how  my  dad  had  and  will  continue   to  have  an  effect  on  their  lives.    I’ve  saved  every  one  of  them  and  I  read  them  often.     One  in  particular  stood  out  to  me.    It  was  from  a  friend  I  had  never  met  whose   passion  was  to  be  a  writer.    He  told  me  that  one  of  the  best  things  my  dad  taught  him   was  that  all  work,  no  matter  what  kind,  is  honorable.    That  spoke  volumes  to  me  the   day  I  read  this  and  I  often  find  that  I  am  preaching  those  very  words  to  anyone  who   will  listen.         My  dad  took  great  pride  in  his  ability  and  passion  to  mentor  and  help  others.    One  of  


his greatest  accomplishments  was  to  watch  others  succeed.    He  was  known  to  seek   out  those  in  need  and  wanted  nothing  more  than  to  sharpen  their  resume,  listen  to   their  goals,  visions  and  dreams  for  the  future  and  send  them  off  with  a  course  of   action.     Q:  Who  was  your  dad’s  mentor  and  why?   A:  In  the  early  1980s,  the  military  sent  my  dad  to  a  program  called  “training  with   industry”  where  they  had  military  officers  in  public  relations  work  in  the  corporate   world  with  PR  professionals.    A  man  by  the  name  of  Jerry  Voros  was  his  boss  and   was  President  of  Ketchum  Communications  in  Pittsburgh,  Pennsylvania.    My  dad   spent  a  year  there  learning  how  the  corporate  world  worked  as  opposed  to  the   military  when  it  came  to  the  public  relations  industry.    He  learned  a  lot  and  always   felt  that  this  is  what  led  him  to  a  profession  in  PR  when  he  retired  from  the  military.     He  took  everything  he  learned  from  Jerry  Voros  with  him.    My  dad  spoke  of  him   often  as  I  grew  up  and  I  hope  Jerry  knows  what  a  powerful  impact  he  had  on  my   dad’s  life.       Q:  Describe  your  dad’s  mentoring  style  in  3  words  and  why?   A:  Passionate,  Dedicated  and  Sincere.     Passionate:    Of  course  this  goes  without  saying.    His  passion  for  mentoring  was   apparent.    As  my  family  often  says,  he  loved  watching  others  succeed  and  to  “leave   his  mark.”  Clearly,  he  did  it  well.         Dedicated:    My  dad  poured  his  heart  and  soul  into  mentoring  others  and  asked   nothing  in  return.    When  I  graduated  college  he  often  told  me  that  he’d  never  pass   along  someone’s  resume  without  first  sitting  down  with  him  or  her  to  learn  about   their  goals,  their  passion  and  where  they  saw  themselves  starting  a  career.    I  began   to  send  countless  friends  who  were  on  the  job  hunt  to  visit  with  my  dad.    It  became   clear  to  me  how  truly  dedicated  he  was  to  helping  others.     Sincere:    When  my  dad  told  someone  they  could  be  that  teacher,  that  writer,  that  PR   professional  they  yearned  to  be,  he  meant  it.    He  truly  believed  that  there  should  be   nothing  standing  in  your  way  from  pursuing  your  true  passion.     Q:  What  do  you  think  his  secret  was  for  being  a  great  mentor  and  leader?   A:  My  dad  was  a  people  person  and  I  have  a  firm  belief  that  being  a  people  person   takes  you  places.    Following  my  graduation,  I  was  lucky  enough  to  drive  into  Chicago   with  him  everyday  and  watch  him  work  with  others.    I  watched  him  mentor;  I   watched  him  coach.    He  had  this  unique  ability  to  be  able  to  walk  into  a  room  and   light  it  up  with  his  smile  and  charisma.    He  could  talk  to  anyone  and  people  adored   him.    I  so  longed  to  have  that  personality  and  that  charm.    Even  if  it  wasn’t  to  mentor   others  but  to  be  so  well  liked.    He  used  to  tell  me:  “Megan,  you  can  teach  anyone  how   to  use  Excel  or  how  to  use  PowerPoint.    You  can  teach  someone  how  to  read  a   financial  statement.    But  you  cannot  teach  someone  how  to  smile.    You  cannot  teach   someone  how  to  have  a  charming  personality.”    I  used  to  joke  with  him  that  I  was  


nothing like  him  but  I’m  often  told  the  apple  didn’t  fall  too  far  from  the  tree.    I’ll   most  definitely  take  that  as  a  compliment.    I  have  him  to  thank  for  so  much.    He  was   my  mentor,  my  teacher,  my  father  and  friend.         Q:  Share  your  top  10  “Don-­‐isms”.   A:  There  are  SO  many  I  could  share.    Here  are  my  favorites.   1. Always  have  a  fresh  and  well-­‐done  resume.   2. Be  a  mentor  and  a  teacher.    Seek  a  mentor.   3. Help  someone  else  who  is  looking  for  a  job.    You’ll  be  looking  yourself   someday.    And  remember  to  say  thank  you.   4. You  must  constantly  be  improving  yourself  everyday  and  looking  for  ways  to   be  a  valued  member  of  your  organization,  team  or  agency.    You  cannot  rest   on  yesterday’s  successes.     5. Stay  current  in  the  business.    Know  the  new  media.    And  be  sure  you  are   proficient  in  the  uses  of  the  traditional  media…they  are  not  going  away.    (No   one  loved  a  hard  newspaper  more  than  him!!)   6. Admit  mistakes.    Do  this  quickly.    Be  the  first  to  tell  the  bad  news  to  your  boss   or  client.    Admit  that  you  made  a  mistake  and  have  a  solution  if  there  is  one.   7. Be  real,  always.    Be  authentic.    Don’t  try  to  be  someone  else.   8. Give  100  percent  all  the  time.    Don’t  cut  corners.    Anything  less  is  a  lack  of   commitment.       9. Be  well  dressed  and  well  groomed.    You  only  get  one  chance  to  make  a  first   impression.    There  is  an  old  saying  that  you  can  tell  a  lot  about  a  person  by   the  state  of  his/her  shoes.    Shine  those  shoes.   10. Today’s  peacock  is  tomorrow’s  feather  duster.                  

Don Kirchoffner  

Don Kirchoffner (posthumously) is this year’s recipient of the Plank Center’s “Milestones in Mentoring” Legacy Award. This award recognizes...

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