Oral Histories

Bob Ehinger

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

Bob Ehinger Biography

Though born in Saco, Maine, Ehinger spent most of his early years in Dover, Delaware.  From there he attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1943 with a degree in economics.  After graduation, he joined the Navy as an Ensign in the Supply Corps and served as supply officer on a destroyer in the Pacific.

After the war, Ehinger was hired by Western Electric as a buyer's clerk in the Purchasing Department in New York City.  (Western Electric was the purchasing agent for the Bell Telephone companies).  After advancing to senior buyer, he transferred to an operating job at a large service center in Los Angeles, and eventually became the manager.  With about 1,100 employees, he thought Western Electric should be better known in the Southern California area, so he hired the first-ever public relations professional.  Eventually, the P.R. Vice President in New York transferred him to New York as Director of Community Relations and Public Affairs.  This job was followed by assignments in personnel, defense activities, and finally Ehinger became Secretary and Treasurer of the company (Western had an outside board of directors).  From this assignment, he became Vice President of Public Relations in 1973.  In 1982 Ed Block, AT&T P.R. Vice President, asked him to come to AT&T on January 1, 1984.  With Ed, Ehinger established the AT&T Foundation and the Arthur W. Page Society.  The first annual conference was held at the Hershey Inn in Hershey, Pa.  At that time, the Society's membership came primarily from the telephone companies that were being divested from AT&T.  Ehinger comments that it has been a source of pride to see how the Page Society has grown and become the leader in the profession.

Transcript

INTERVIEWER:  In what ways did he help set that stage?

EHINGER:  Well he made…the way you ought to handle your public relations, through telling it like it is.  Being you might say, a little humorous about it.  Being factual.  Being ahead of the curve you might say.  That was important.  We didn’t have major problems, at Western Electric we started having a few problems you know, we’re a manufacturing company so when you had to get rid of scrap, some of it, it might say toxic…you always gave it to a supplier but you had to be sure that that supplier was taking it to the right place otherwise, you could be in trouble cause you’re the big guy and they’re always gonna come after you, so we were very careful in our various factories to make sure that the vendor that was handling our scrap waste materials from the manufacturing process went to the right place to get rid of it.

INTERVIEWER:  I know that Page travelled around and made speeches at various places, did you ever hear about the speeches?  Did you ever hear anything any quotes by him or anything?

EHINGER:  No, I did not.  He was, of course long before me and of course Ed Block became sort of a student of Arthur Page and, I got to know a little about him obviously through setting up the society but as far as hearing—he was quoted from time to time but as far as making that a part of a curriculum or a conference, I really never encountered that. It might have on a couple of times but I’ve forgotten.