David Finn, Founding Father of PR, Passes Away at 100
The art aficionado leaves behind a storied communications legacy.
NEW YORK, 10/19/2021 – The public relations world mourns the loss of David Finn,
Ruder Finn co-founder and celebrated artist, who passed away on 10/18/2021 at the age of 100.
Largely considered one of the founding fathers of public relations, David’s early influence in the field helped to lay the groundwork for stakeholder capitalism and demonstrate the importance of communications in the c-suite. Today, the legacy he leaves behind is a prolific one. In his more than 70 years leading the company as CEO and Chairman, David helped push the boundaries of the communications world, establishing the model for a modern public relations agency in Ruder Finn, the agency he co-founded with Bill Ruder in 1948.
What began as an idea contrived in the linen closet of the Lombardy Hotel in New York City, Ruder Finn would ultimately go on to become a global communications powerhouse, whose early and immediate success was due in large part to the earnest and innovative lens through which David Finn approached each client and assignment. As David expanded the agency to reach new heights, he vowed to take on only projects he believed in — showcasing an intense conviction for corporate social responsibility that is still survived by the agency today.
The zest he displayed for his work was unparalleled, helping to draw in high profile clients from the humanities to The White House. Under the Kennedy Administration, he rallied support for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; under the Clinton administration, served on the National Endowment for the Humanities; and under the George W. Bush administration, helped to build and launch ready.gov following 9/11. Under David’s leadership, Ruder Finn launched the “Glad Bag-A-Thon,” the nation’s largest organized clean-up and recycling initiative with Glad Bags and Keep America Beautiful, and helped Novartis launch the global introduction of Gleevec, the first targeted therapy breakthrough on the road to a cure for cancer.
David’s talents leapt far beyond the communication industry. A widely celebrated creative and proponent of the arts, David took special interest in the photography of sculpture – a pastime he began by capturing Gustav Vigeland’s life-size figurines while in Norway with his wife, Laura. Shortly after, David published a photography book showcasing these photos — his first — titled, Embrace of Life: The Sculpture of Gustav Vigeland, and from there would go on to have his work exhibited at shows around the world.
David was also a decorated author. His first book, The Corporate Oligarch, published in 1969 by Simon and Schuster, laid the groundwork for stakeholder capitalism — portraying corporations as the “central institution in American life” while simultaneously underscoring the importance of public service. A prolific thinker, David also published numerous texts on the philosophy of PR and the roles and responsibilities of business in society; he was also an outspoken voice on ethics in business, and led Ruder Finn to become the first PR company to have a standing ethics committee.
Throughout his lifetime, David wrote or contributed his photographs to over 100 books, served as an adjunct professor of public relations at New York University, became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Advisory Council for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
David will not only be remembered as a pioneer of the public relations industry, but as a loving and devoted father, grandfather, brother, and friend.
For more information on David’s life and legacy, visit www.rememberingdavidfinn.com.
About Ruder Finn
Ruder Finn is one of the world's largest independent global communications and creative agencies. Founded in 1948, Ruder Finn has defined and redefined PR for more than 70 years, shaping communications that help move industry-defining brands, companies and leaders from what's now to what's next. Headquartered in New York, Ruder Finn provides clients with bold communications strategies based on a global perspective and localized market knowledge that redefine leadership, reimagine the marketplace, and rethink customer experiences around a shared sense of purpose.
The agency is organized around four core areas of expertise: Health & Wellness, Corporate Reputation, Technology & Innovation and Consumer Connection. Specialty practices include RF Relate, RFx Studios, ICX and RF TechLab. Ruder Finn has offices across 4 continents including the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Wholly owned agencies within Ruder Finn Group include: Ruder Finn Inc., RLA Collective, SPI Group, Osmosis Films and jacobstahl, leading RF Bloom and Bloom Health.
For more information visit www.ruderfinn.com.