There are many reasons why these things mean so much to me. I could blog for days straight discussing them. Here are two reasons.
Taking a break from grading PR writing assignments today, I checked my snail mail. Among the political ads, financial solicitations, and bills was a priceless gem, a card from Norm and Rae Leaper. Norm and Rae were IABC leaders when I became active in the association. I looked up to them for their involvement and leadership as worthy role models.
The Leapers have been wonderfully dear friends for decades. There are two incidents involving them that rank as life-changing and most uplifting experiences in my life. These two events are major highlights of my 35-plus years in the communication/PR profession.
First, in the Leapers’ card today was a letter dated September 12, 1989. Rae, a past IABC chairman and head of the search committee, had written the letter nominating me for IABC vice chairman for 1990-1991, with automatic succession to the position of chairman the following year. The letter contained some complimentary language that touches my heart today, for I had never seen this letter. Norm, with his dry sense of humor, had attached stickie notes to the letter saying, “hysteric document” and “Cleaning out files, found this letter, and interestingly, Rae says she still stands by most of it.”
I was named vice chairman and went on to serve as IABC’s chairman. Norm was President of IABC during my chairmanship. Working together, we formed a dedicated team working for the highest good of an association we both love. Serving as IABC’s chairman was one of the greatest honors I have ever received. Thank you, Rae. Thank you, Norm.
The second Leaper incident involves IABC accreditation. IABC’s is the gold standard of accreditation programs. It is a lengthy, comprehensive, and well-managed process. I began the pursuit of accreditation in 1977. After passing the portfolio segment, I was scheduled to take the written and oral exams at an IABC conference in November 1977.
But in March 1977, I had a life-altering accident in which I broke my back and was paralyzed. When I showed up in November in my wheelchair at the examination, we five candidates were forced to sit around a small table and use manual typewriters to take the rigorous, five-hour written exam. I could not get under the table with my wheelchair, so taking the exam was quite difficult and stressful.
Fast forward four months. I was at work at my desk in March of 1978 on the one-year anniversary of my accident. So many thoughts ran through my mind that day. It was a difficult anniversary. I had returned to work full-time after only three months of rehab after my accident. I had taken the accreditation exam eight months after the accident. That anniversary day, I was trying to cope with life and career as a paraplegic. I was tormented by doubts and fears.
But then the mail came. I received a letter from Rae Leaper, still an active IABC leader, telling me I had earned IABC accreditation. Rae’s letter arriving on the one-year anniversary of my accident was a great victory on my way to recovery. On a dark day, I received that letter of affirmation, encouragement, and hope.
Thank you, Rae. Thank you, Norm. And thank you, IABC.