Patrick Hugh Henderson Macleod, MBE, APR, FCPRS(H), LM
CPRS Executive Director 1972-1985
Patrick Macleod is widely remembered by many CPRS members as the long-serving Executive Director of our organization. He ran the national office for 13 years and left an indelible mark as a skilled administrator. But Patrick Macleod was much more than an efficient bureaucrat. He was a consummate communicator, proud father and grandfather, and a highly decorated soldier.
“There’s something about a soldier,” goes the old song, and people who knew Patrick Macleod felt that way about him. Born into one World War, and veteran of the next, Macleod possessed a military discipline and commitment to teamwork that made him an invaluable asset to the public-relations profession.
Early Life and Career
Patrick Hugh Henderson Macleod was born in London, England two days before Christmas in 1916, the eldest of four children. According to biographical notes provided by his daughter Sandra, one of her father’s earliest recollections was observing three German biplanes flying over his home on their way to bomb London.
Raised in Guildford, Surrey, southwest of London, young Patrick excelled at group sports, captaining his school field-hockey team and starring in cricket and rugby. He continued this prowess at Cambridge where, in 1938, he was a member of the winning rowing team in the famous annual Oxford-versus-Cambridge Boat Race, with his name still firmly engraved on the team’s oar.
Patrick earned a degree in Economics and Law from Cambridge’s Trinity Hall. One famous alumnus of this storied 14th-century college is Marshall McLuhan, who studied there from 1934 to 1936; the two scholars were contemporaries and may well have known each other. Perhaps it was a conversation with Marshall that sparked Patrick’s interest in Canada?
The War Years
Like most young men in England and Europe, Patrick was soon caught up in World War II. His experiences over the next several years read like headlines ripped from World War II’s newspaper.
After joining the British Army Officer Training Corps at Oundle School, Patrick joined the Royal Army Service Corps and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. On July 2, 1939, he was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against the rapid onslaught of the advancing German Army. In June of 1940, he was one of more than 338,000 military personnel rescued from Dunkirk during the famous and heroic evacuation. Shortly after recovering from malnutrition and the extreme conditions endured at Dunkirk, he was posted to North Africa. During the next three years of more tough conditions in the western desert, he was promoted Lieutenant, then Captain and Major, and appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Transport, (DAT) within 30 Corps Headquarters. The Divisions under his command included the celebrated 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats). It was here that he became part of the campaign that succeeded in pushing the Rommel-led German army out of North Africa.
Having helped send Rommel packing in March 1943, Major Macleod next took part in the invasion of Sicily in June of that year, and thence, from their newly established foothold in Messina, across the strait to the “toe” of Italy in September. It was during this operation that he was Mentioned in Dispatches and was also awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, earning his MBE (military) for “Outstanding devotion to duty under difficult conditions”. His MBE citation reads: “In the preparation for and during the operation in the Sicilian campaign, this officer worked with boundless energy in the execution of his duties as DADT. It was a period when the management of transport called for a very high degree of initiative. This efficient quick grasp of the constantly changing picture of maintenance requirements and his prompt action to meet the situation consequent these changes contributed highly to the optimum employment of transport”. He was clearly a well-respected, dedicated and highly efficient young officer, now aged 28.
Finally, Major Macleod came full circle, returning to northern France still working within 30 Corps headquarters, and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He then advanced through France and Belgium and north into the Netherlands, where his World War II service ended with the cessation of hostilities. It is almost certain that Patrick met, and fought alongside, more than a few Canadians during this final stretch.
Following the war, Patrick and an old school friend, Arnold Fawcus, formed a company specializing in publishing limited-edition books in the UK and France. In July 1947, he married Françoise Donny, the daughter of a Belgian Baron, and started a family which soon comprised four daughters: Fiona, Sheena, Patricia, and Sandra.
On To Canada
In 1952, Patrick and his family came to Canada and settled in Montreal. There, he landed a job running the Book of the Month Club for Reader’s Digest.
As with some other practitioners, Patrick’s experience in publishing gave him a taste for public relations. He began this career by heading up communications at British Petroleum (BP) Canada for 10 years.
Patrick then played an integral role in one of this country’s greatest public-relations achievements, Expo 67, and was instrumental in running its International Trade Centre. This incredible international attraction required not only the building of 90 futuristic pavilions, but also the creation of Saint Helen’s Island on which to build them, and the Concordia Bridge by which to access them, in the space of four and-a-half years — all this, in an era when construction workers were still using hand saws and claw hammers. Under the direction of Expo 67’s Yves Jasmin, Director of Information, Publicity, and Public Relations, Patrick and other PR practitioners had to simultaneously generate worldwide enthusiasm for the event and soothe Canadians’ fears that the project wouldn’t be completed on time. “We’ll be ready” was the PR team’s rallying cry. How often had Major Macleod made that same vow during six years of wartime? He believed in it, and other people just had to as well. Expo 67 opened on schedule, and during its six-month run, welcomed over 50 million visitors. Fifty years later, in a retrospective article, the Globe and Mail newspaper credited the public-relations campaign with much of the exposition’s success.
A Gentleman’s Gentleman
In 1967 the Canadian Public Relations Society established a national office and secretariat in Ottawa, and in 1972 the fluently bilingual Patrick began serving as executive director of CPRS. He applied himself as would an adjutant, the staff officer in charge of organization, discipline, and administration, the one who controls the battle while his superior commands it.
Ron Coulson, the only person who has served as both CPRS national president (1979-80) and as our organization’s Executive Director, describes Patrick in such terms: “He was a meticulous organizer and very generous with his time and counsel to the CPRS presidents he served. He kept us on course; he knew his job was to support his executive and membership. He was a damn good administrator.”
Don LaBelle, 1982-83 national president and another close friend, echoed Coulson’s statement, saying of Patrick’s work habits: “If he was in charge, no detail was too small — nothing was left out.” But Labelle added — as did everyone interviewed for this profile — that Patrick Macleod was first and foremost a “gentleman’s gentleman”. Patrick “knew how to keep the Society’s volunteers on track, calm the waters, and keep peace when things got testy.”
Patrick remained CPRS Executive Director until his retirement in 1985. As to what motivated him, Don Labelle has an answer. “What he wanted to do, of course, was create opportunities for CPRS members to expand their educational and professional development opportunities.”
To this end, Patrick convened joint meetings with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He also helped to found, and joined as secretary-treasurer, the Communications + Public Relations Foundation (CPRF), established in 1979, which supports education and research focused on PR and its importance to society.
But his biggest campaign was to come. And it involved storming the battlements of tradition, status quo, and indifference to the strong desire – indeed need – to establish educational standards for the public relations profession.
The First Degree
“Patrick was absolutely the driving force behind a four-year effort to have a degree-granting program in public relations established in Canada,” says CPRS Fellow and Macleod’s long-time friend, Ed Murray of Halifax. Murray was part of a small team of CPRS members, including 1976-77 national president Neil Oakley, who in the early-to-mid 1970s took on the challenge.
At that time, “expert” advice suggested PR instruction was best suited for night school. The team at CPRS begged to differ, but they had a lot of people to persuade: the government, universities, even many PR practitioners who had learned on the job and deemed it sufficient.
“No one took the proposal seriously,” said Macleod’s daughter Sandra. “Dad and his colleagues went to most of Canada’s major universities and were rejected everywhere.”
But Major Macleod knew how to wage a battle on several fronts, and how to soldier on for years in the service of an important and vital cause. Compared with war, this was chips and gravy. “We lobbied everyone Patrick lined up for us to see — and there were many — including politicians, school administrators, even the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, based in Fredericton,” recalled Murray. “There is no question that Patrick was instrumental in our success — he was right into it and I doubt we would have been successful without his enthusiasm and perseverance.”
In the fall of 1977, Mount St. Vincent University accepted its first cohort of 28 students into the new Bachelor of Public Relations program. Four years later, Sandra graduated at the top of this class, one of Canada’s first proud BPRs. In 2013, to honour her father and his contributions to the Mount’s program, Sandra established the Patrick Macleod Public Relations Bursary, awarded annually to a deserving, cash-strapped student.
Jon White was one of the early department heads for the BPR program at MSVU. He recalled Patrick’s intimate involvement in curriculum development for the new degree and later his contributions as professional development requirements were established for CPRS. “Patrick always gave us willing support and guidance helping our developing academic program establish itself and giving good links to practice. He was a pleasure to work with – calm, thoughtful in his advice, and good humoured in passing it on.”
Following her father’s footsteps into a public-relations career seemed natural for Sandra. As a high-school student she accompanied her father to a CPRS national conference. Sitting in the back of the meeting rooms she was exposed to the leading lights of the communications industry. Now with 37 years as a global public-relations executive and leader under her belt, Sandra reflected on her father’s influence on her own vocation and on the Canadian profession.
“Dad was very supportive of my decision to pursue a public-relations career, but I never had a sense that he imposed the choice on me,” she said. “What I did learn from him was the respect, indeed the sheer humanity and dignity, in which he regarded all forms of communications. He had a deep regard for the written word.” Sandra remembered how her father always “carefully and thoughtfully” considered how to treat them and looked “through the lens of others’ values” to determine how the communications would help.
In 1988, Patrick and his second wife Yvonne McLintock retired to Mijas, Spain, where they lived out their lives to the fullest. Patrick even edited a book in his 97th year. He passed away June 17, 2015, aged 98, survived by four daughters, two stepdaughters, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
Patrick Macleod’s legacy as a public-relations practitioner and administrator lives on in the successful careers and lives of the graduates of Canada’s first English-language public-relations degree program. And it will do so for future graduating classes from Mount Saint Vincent University and other institutions that have also initiated PR degree and post-graduate programs.
“He never stopped his quest for improving himself and the profession. He left CPRS in exceptional shape when he retired,” concludes Don LaBelle. “The professionalism of public relations in Canada today can largely be attributed to Patrick Macleod and those he pushed to new frontiers.”
“I’m an adoring daughter,” lovingly admits Sandra. “I know I’ve had a successful PR career, but I also know I will never live up to his extraordinary achievements.”
Former national president (1978-79) Ed Murray summarizes: “He just wouldn’t let us give up.”