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In Appreciation of Jack O’Dwyer

December 21, 2018 • Bruce Weindruch

“Anybody can make history,” Oscar Wilde commented. “Only a great man can write it.” For the past 50 years, Jack O’Dwyer wrote the personal, financial, organizational and cultural history of the public relations industry . . . in real time. On December 19, O’Dwyer passed away at age 85.

Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter was in its 10th year when History Factory was founded. It was our primer. We knew our clients read it, so we read it. It was invaluable to us, a small band of academics and museum professionals, punching way above our weight class in the C-suites of corporate America. We learned who the thought leaders were, agency accounts won and lost, and industry trends. Most importantly, we learned the metrics and best practices of running an agency.

Over the years, as the Newsletter migrated online, we got to know Jack’s son, John, who couldn’t have been more gracious and supportive of History Factory. John recognized that History Factory’s focus on authentic content and creative deliverables positioned us squarely within the broader communication landscape, and covered us accordingly. I can remember thinking at the time: “Wow. We made O’Dwyer’s.

Oscar Wilde also observed that “history is merely gossip.” Obviously, as a historian, I wouldn’t go so far as to endorse Wilde’s assertion. But a healthy dose of reality—with perhaps a dollop of self-deprecation—never hurts. That’s one of things I enjoyed most about Jack O’Dwyer. He was a crusader. While I always knew where he stood on both important and not-so-important issues facing the industry, I got the impression that he saw himself David taking on Goliath. O’Dwyer gave me hope, as an industry outsider myself.

One thing I’ve learned in History Factory’s 40 years is that it isn’t always the person making history who’s necessarily remembered. Many times, it’s the person who records history whose memory endures. I’m confident that Jack O’Dwyer’s legacy is intact.


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