Remembering Mike Herman

MikeHerman_looking-left_webMike Herman was a friend and mentor to me. He was also the former head of Epley Associates in North Carolina. And he was a visionary chairman of the PRSA’s Counselors Academy. Mike passed away this past weekend.

As you might expect, many of my Counselors Academy colleagues have already posted countless accolades about Mike’s humanitarian ways, serious musical skills and overall zest for life. So, I thought I’d share, instead, a brief anecdote that describes the type of leader, mentor and friend Mike was to me.

Shortly after inviting me to join the Counselors Board, Mike suggested it would be a wise move on my part to also chair the very next Spring Conference. I remember him phrasing it this way, “Steve, you’re the perfect guy for the job. Do it.” And so I did it. Or, at least I tried.

Needless to say, I knew I’d bitten off more than I could chew. The Spring Conference is the crown jewel of the Counselors Academy. Being tasked with managing it made me feel like I’d been asked to manage the Super Bowl instead. I was in DefCon 5 mode from day one.

And, things only got worse from there. About a month before the scheduled conference in the Spring of 2003, the now legendary SARS epidemic broke out. PR pros cancelled their trips in droves. Suddenly, an event that normally attracted 300 attendees had dwindled to a precious few.

I was desperate. So, I picked up the phone, got through to Mike and suggested we pull the plug post haste.

There was a prolonged silence on the other end. Then Mike sighed his patented sigh, and asked, “Steve, do you want to be remembered as the ONLY Spring Conference chair who never held a damn Spring Conference?” After a few other epithets, Mike told me to buck-up. He said SARS or no SARS, the show would go on. And it did.

Needless to say, the conference was a huge success. The fearless 80 souls who did attend the event enjoyed the intimacy of a smaller group since it afforded them more access to the keynote speakers, workshop leaders and one another.

I thanked Mike profusely afterwards. But, in typical Mike fashion, he sighed and said, “It’s all in a day’s work, Steve.” And then he laughed one of those patented Mike Herman belly laughs.

So let me add one other word to the many used to describe the Late Mike Herman: unflappable.

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