1987--A Bronx-born former housewife is named senior vice president of public relations for AT&T, becoming the highest ranking women in company history and the first woman to head the PR for a Fortune 50 company.
In 1970, Marilyn Laurie caught the attention of AT&T as a co-founder of Earth Day, the campaign responsible for creating the environmental movement. In fact, AT&T hired her a year later to create the company's environmental policies and set up conservation programs for all the Baby Bell companies. Her rise up to the top of the PR ladder--which was done within a primarily all-male environment--included stints as head of Bell Labs, corporate advertising and speechwriter for the CEO. Along the way, she managed the company's responses to several national crises, including those involving mass layoffs, Planned Parenthood and claims of racism within its ranks.
Prior to the company's trivestiture, Laurie was managing a PR staff of some 800 professionals operating around the world. At the same time, she served as chair for the AT&T Foundation, distributing more than a billion dollars to arts and educational programs to communities across the U.S. She was also one of the founders of the Page Society, an organization named for AT&T's first vp of public relations, Arthur Page.
In her lifetime, Laurie won awards from every PR organization, including election to the Page Society Hall of Fame, several lifetime achievement awards and selection twice as a PR Week Allstar. Since her death in 2010, she continues to win accolades from the industry. At the recent The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication awards dinner, her long-time colleague and successor, Dick Martin, spoke about Laurie's contributions to the field and presented a trophy posthumously to her daughter, Lisa Laurie. See the video from the Page Center.