January 2, 2014
Frank Winston Wylie, APR, Fellow PRSA, a longtime distinguished leader in the Society, died in his sleep at his California home on Dec. 16. He was 89.
Wylie was born in New York City on July 3, 1924. He attended Avon Old Farms in Connecticut and Friends Academy on Long Island before entering Harvard with the class of 1946. He interrupted his college years to join the Army for two years. He started in the Signal Corps and ended up in the Office of the Chief of Staff in Washington.
After returning to Harvard to complete his B.S. degree, he joined the Dodge Division of the Chrysler Corporation in 1948. That same year he married Martha Rockwood. They had one child, Deborah Elizabethe Wylie.
He worked in various positions at Dodge/Chrysler for 32 years, rising to director of public relations. He proposed that Dodge get into NASCAR racing to update its public image and became the lead person in that effort, hiring drivers, mechanics, pit crews and working the races on weekends. He was proud that Dodge won the NASCAR Championship in 1968.
During this time he became active in public relations circles, leading PRSA’s Detroit Chapter and eventually becaming president of PRSA in 1978. In 1982 he received the Gold Anvil, PRSA’s highest individual award. He was in the founding group of PRSA members inducted into the College of Fellows.
In 1980 he retired from the auto business and went to California to work in higher education, first as public affairs director for California State University Los Angeles, where he earned a M.A., then as a professor at California State University Long Beach.
He loved teaching, retiring in 1992 as Professor Emeritus and Chair of the Journalism Department. Until the end of his life former students wrote him letters and visited him, thanking him for mentoring them and teaching them important skills that led to their later success. He has two PRSSA Chapters named after him, one at the University of Dayton, and one at Cal State Long Beach.
His first marriage ended in divorce, and he married travel author/writer Judith Babcock in 1984. They enjoyed many years of travel together on assignments, with Frank as photographer.
After retiring from teaching he and Judith moved to their organic apple farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. He was active in the community, on the Bonny Doon School Board, the county’s Affirmative Action Committee, and on the Finance Committee of California Certified Organic Farmers.
There will be a celebration of his life Feb. 15 at his home in Bonny Doon. Wylie had a lifelong passion for trees and planted hundreds on his property and orchards. He hoped to encourage others to plant a tree or to contribute to a tree-centric charity such as the Arbor Day Foundation.