A Salute to David R. Brimm, the Iron Man of PCC
News Jul 10, 2024

Note from PCC Executive Director Tweed Thornton: Earlier this year, PCC lost a legend with the passing of David R. Brimm. Dave was always generous with his time, including parts of my onboarding here at PCC even though Dave had retired from Board service at that point. I am grateful to Dave for his passion and dedication to PCC, including his help to me professionally. Saturday, July 13 would have been Dave's 72nd birthday. We at PCC are honored to share Dominic Calabrese's tribute to his friend, in Dave's memory and honor.

A Salute to David R. Brimm, the Iron Man of PCC

By Dominic Calabrese, Past PCC President

He served a record breaking five terms as club president. He also held every other major leadership post and even volunteered to step in as executive director when the position suddenly became available and no one else came forward. In addition, he streamlined the Golden Trumpet Awards judging process, making it possible to evaluate entries online for the very first time in the awards' history.

For these achievements and many more, David R. Brimm, who passed away on April 22, richly earned the title, "Iron Man of PCC."  Mr. Brimm was widely hailed as an effective, innovative leader who donated much of his personal time to the club while also maintaining his own successful PR firm.   Yet he was always willing to help others, especially young people starting out in the business.

In memory of Dave, we asked many of his friends and colleagues to share their thoughts and comment on his very special legacy.

"While I never had the good fortune to work with Dave, his sterling reputation precedes him," notes current PCC President DeRondal Bevly who operates his own PR agency and teaches at Columbia College Chicago. "Dave was a giant in our profession who left an indelible mark on the Publicity Club of Chicago. On behalf of all our members, we extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Gloria, and the rest of his family.  We will always honor his contributions and cherish his memory."

"I'll always remember seeing him at our board meetings with a ready smile, a toothy grin and a great sense of humor," recalls Andy Goldstein, longtime PCC counsel and a personal friend.  "Dave was affable and pleasant yet focused like a laser on the club and what could be done to fulfill its obligations to its members and ensure its viability for years to come."

Goldstein, who observed and worked closely with many PCC presidents over the years, points out that Mr. Brimm was a visionary who also possessed a knack for keeping the club's finances in order.

"No doubt that Dave kept a steady hand at the wheel and successfully guided the club during challenging times," he notes.

When asked what things about Mr. Brimm may surprise his many friends, Goldstein points to "Pitching Penguins," a witty and clever play Dave wrote about the PR business.  "It was a particular point of pride for him in that he got the play produced and was able to see it on stage."

As accomplished a professional as Mr. Brimm was, which was reflected in his winning several prestigious Golden Trumpet Awards, PCC's top honor, as well as the club's Lifetime Achievement Award, which he took home in 2020, he never lost the common touch and went out of his way to welcome new members. 

"When I first joined PCC in the fall of 2006, I remember that Dave was a fixture at club luncheons, easy to talk with and someone who could answer any questions about the organization, which I had as a new member," says Immediate Past President Jim O'Reilly, maintaining that Mr. Brimm was synonymous with the Publicity Club of Chicago.

"When you think of PCC, you think of Dave!" O'Reilly adds with a smile. His legacy will forever be the club and on a personal note, I'll always appreciate the support he gave me when I was president."

Offering support, extending a hand of friendship and volunteering to take on any task no matter how onerous while others shied away were hallmarks of Mr. Brimm's style.

Bearing witness to that fact was another past PCC president, Karen Brown.

"When I heard about Dave's passing, I was stunned and began reflecting on how much he meant to me personally," she says.

Brown points out that she first met Mr. Brimm while serving on the Golden Trumpet committee back in 2000.

"I was introduced to both Dave and another wonderful member, Jeff Bierig, at a judging session for the Trumpet Awards," she recalls.  "I was overwhelmed as to how friendly and helpful both of these longtime Publicity Club leadership members were to me all during this process."

Brown notes that at the time, all of the judging was done in person, over a number of days in a meeting room loaded with bound copies of entries in each category.  

"It was intimidating to judge other professionals’ work but the tone, set by Dave as he oversaw the judging that year, contributed extensively to the high standards and fair assessment he expected all of us judges to meet."

She also recalls that Mr. Brimm was readily available for guidance and made it known that he wanted judges to question if an entry met the requirements and welcomed any concerns that they had.

"From that point on, I could not help but love the manner in which Dave showed me and others the pride and attention to detail he brought to every Publicity Club activity."

She adds that in 2001, both Mr. Bierig and Mr. Brimm agreed to lead PCC as Co-Presidents. 

"Those of us who knew them could not have been happier," Brown says. "Their volunteer efforts brought PCC into a great era of leadership and moved the club forward." 

She observes that anyone who worked with Mr. Brimm recognizes all the labor of love that he gave to publicists, marketers and the media throughout many, many years. 

"Dave always conducted himself with exacting professionalism and was a class act who embodies the very best of our profession."

Echoing those sentiments was Deb Lawrence, former PCC board member who was a close friend and colleague of Mr. Brimm's.

She had an opportunity to witness first hand how he excelled in the PR industry.

"I met Dave when I was the Director of Marketing for Hinckley & Schmitt (H&S) Bottled Water which is now Hinckley Springs," she recalls.  "He was a principal at the Werle + Brimm Public Relations agency located on Michigan Avenue."

Lawrence recounts that at the time, the bottled water industry was exploding. 

"Dave was hired as an external public relations consultant," she says, and my first impressions were that he was knowledgeable and action oriented."

Lawrence notes that Mr. Brimm provided PR support to H&S encompassing 44 states. Subsequent to H&S, she hired him as a PR consultant when she worked at other organizations and then worked directly with Mr. Brimm at his firm, BrimmComm, on independent public relations projects for nine years – primarily in the pharmaceutical, hospital and medical areas.

Lawrence emphasizes that he brought to PCC the same passion and high standards of excellence set in his professional life.

"Dave cared deeply about the success of the Publicity Club of Chicago," she maintains. "He always was first to jump in and provided the club with consistent support over the years," adding with a laugh, "Imagine someone being President five times!"

Lawrence says that since Mr. Brimm was involved with PCC for so many years in a variety of roles, he also served as the club historian and was often sought out by the media for quotes about prominent PR practitioners who were members.

Like Goldstein, she celebrates Mr. Brimm's uniquely "quirky" sense of humor. "Dave was brilliant and appropriately serious if the situation called for it yet could still find something funny in the most dire of situations."

Asked how he would advise young people starting out in the PR business, Lawrence replies, "The staples that Dave always talked about were do your homework; learn as much as you can about your clients and their industries; look at the client's product/service line; and treat their business as if it were your own."

Another close friend, longtime PCC member Sue Roberts concurs, adding that Mr. Brimm always sought to cast both his clients as well as colleagues in the best possible light.

"When I was working at Quill office supply company," she recalls, "Dave partnered with me to put on an 'Office Olympics' as well as helped me pull together my first proactive crisis management plan for a variety of possible negative events." 

Roberts adds that she and Mr. Brimm worked on several project proposals together.

"He was great about organizing teams of PR friends to work on projects with him, as well as share his insights when asked," she says. "Rarely, if ever, have I ever heard him say  the word, no.”

She also maintains that Mr. Brimm was adept at pitching stories and working with the media. 

"In addition,  Dave loved the ghost writing he did for his clients and took pride in making them look good." 

Along those lines, she recounts how Mr. Brimm would often reach out to his friends who were experiencing tough times.

"Dave was very supportive when my first husband passed away and he and his wife, Gloria, took me to the Milwaukee Museum for my birthday when they found out that my second husband, Allen, would be out of town and they didn’t want me to be alone."

According to Roberts, Mr. Brimm's altruistic nature was on full display the very first time they met at a networking event in the mid 1980s.

"He made quite the impression even then as his larger-than-life presence and wonderful laugh filled the room," she smiles.  

For as long as she's known him, Roberts maintains that Mr. Brimm was always willing to share, listen, mentor and do whatever needed to be done to address a challenge.

"In fact, the thing I most admired about Dave was his willingness to share with and help others, especially those new to the field. That willingness to share really made him special."

She also points out that in addition to his willingness to share, Mr. Brimm was always interested in learning new things.

"He had National Public Radio on in his office as part of his ongoing effort to be as informed as possible about current events and trends," Roberts observes. "If Dave was not sure how to do something, he would delve in and do his research as well as ask others in the know."

Reflecting on Mr. Brimm's legacy, she says:

"Dave was a giver. He preferred to work behind the scenes, letting others be in the limelight while he stood in the shadows.However, he loved the limelight when it came to PCC because he felt it was one of his children!"

Goldstein summed up the feelings of Mr. Brimm's many friends and admirers when he said: "Dave loved life, his family, his wonderful wife and best friend Gloria, and loved to help others however he could whenever he could.  In addition. he was a five time PCC President who held every other role in the club.  That can’t be said about any other person. Dave Brimm will be a tough act to follow. We will sorely miss him!"

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