Remembering David Finn

I am sorry to share that my father and Rebecca’s grandfather, David Finn, passed away yesterday afternoon. He recently celebrated his 100th birthday. When I shared on LinkedIn the story that PRWeek wrote on the occasion of his birthday, I was amazed that I had over 6,000 views with many people adding comments. It was wonderful for me to see the people of all ages whose lives he had touched and had an impact on.  

David was not only my father but an incredible and inspirational mentor. He taught me how to view the world from different perspectives. While many of you did not meet him, there are several of us from the RF|Binder community who were deeply touched by him. Rebecca, while not having worked with him professionally, spent much of her childhood in the darkroom with him every weekend as they shared a passion for art. Atalanta, Jason, Steve, Ophelia, Tom and Abby, all worked with him in the early days and knew him well. 

While David has long been recognized as one of the founders of the public relations industry, I believe what set him apart from so many of the other leading figures in the industry was his creativity. Before my father went into the business, he was an artist. He painted throughout his life and over the years became recognized as a photographer who brought a whole new approach to how sculpture was photographed.  In fact, over 100 books of his photographs of renown sculptors including Henry Moore, Chillida, Michelangelo, Donatello, just to mention a few, were published, many of which are in our offices today.

It is this same creativity that shaped his approach to public relations. David taught me that creativity and breakthrough thinking need to be integral to every aspect of what we do each day. I will always remember his telling me the story of how early in his career he asked art students at Pratt to build art works to highlight in a unique way the attributes of a brand-new type of zipper which he was hired to introduce for a European company. My immediate reaction was what an unusual way to focus attention on such an ordinary product. David pioneered many aspects of the industry, which today are so accepted but back in the 1950s and 60s had never been done before including sponsorship of the arts and the use of research in developing corporate and brand campaigns. 

David was driven by the passion of an artist who seeks to see and understand the world from entirely new perspectives. He was committed to bringing meaning into the workplace and in fact started a wonderful series he called Conference Room Quotations. Each Quotation consisted of two elements: an idea expressed in words by a leading individual and a photograph of a great sculpture. They represented a point of view about the role art and learning should play in everyday life and work. They were placed throughout the conference rooms and shared with the entire team every month. While many of you have not been in our new office, we have his photographs and paintings throughout the office. The same was true of our offices before we moved. 

David was also driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. Along with Bill Ruder, his best friend and brother-in-law, he built Ruder and Finn into an important global public relations firm. He taught me that as an entrepreneur it was important to find innovative ways of solving business challenges. Long before the recent rise in ESG reporting and the discussion of the need for corporations to articulate their purpose, David believed that corporations could and should be a force for good. It was integrated into all of his work with leadership at corporations around the world.  David was a leader who earned a seat at the C-suite table and laid the groundwork for so many of us to follow.

My father’s life was focused on bringing creativity and meaning into what he and those he worked with did every day. This is something I learned from him as I was growing up and continued when I worked with him at Ruder Finn. The values he lived by are foundational to RF|Binder and the collective impact we have for our clients, our firm, and society at large. Thank you for taking the time to learn a bit more about him and for everything you do every day to make RF|Binder such a special place.

Best,

Amy