WINDSOR, N.S. — A former Hants County resident recently received one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on a public relations professional.
Mary Barker, who resides in Halifax but grew up in St. Croix and Falmouth, received the Philip A. Novikoff Memorial Award earlier this year.
She is the second Nova Scotian to have received the honour — and the only woman from Atlantic Canada.
“People who have gotten this award in the past are heads of major Canadian public relations firms, heads of global public relations. They have been what I always thought of as being so senior to me... I've looked up to these people,” said Barker in an interview.
“For me to receive this award, and to be the first woman in Atlantic Canada to ever get it... I don't know how to describe what a fantastic feeling that is,” she said, adding, “It just warmed my heart to get a standing ovation before I even set foot on the stage.”
The Philip A. Novikoff Memorial Award was first established in 1988 by his widow Hilda Novikoff. It is presented once a year, if there is a worthy nominee, by the Canadian Public Relations Society, who has “furthered the standing of the public relations profession in Canada through professional practice and personal relations, as well as the enhancement of CPRS and the betterment of the community.”
The award recognizes “superior and outstanding service over time as a public relations professional.”
The first Nova Scotian to receive the award was Steven B. Parker in 1992.
Nominations must be made by a current accredited CPRS member and endorsed by three additional current accredited CPRS members. Nine people nominated Barker, including Parker, the former winner.
“As someone who has known Mary well for more than 25 years, I can attest that I have never met anyone more supportive of her colleagues nor more generous with her time,” wrote nominator Charmaine Gaudet, the director of external relations for Genome Atlantic.
“In preparing her nomination, I spoke with many public relations practitioners who have had the pleasure of working with Mary professionally or in a volunteer capacity; without exception, everyone I spoke with shared wonderful stories about how much they benefitted from knowing her — as a mentor, teacher, colleague, or loyal friend. She has truly enriched their lives as she has mine... and she has made her community a better place. She has led by leadership, dedication and example, and earned the respect of her peers,” Gaudet wrote.
Parker noted that Barker's “contribution to the public relations profession in Canada and Nova Scotia has been enduring and exceptional.”
Peter Spurway, the vice president of corporate communications at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport Authority, wrote that he was inspired by Barker's “continuing commitment to and passion for CPRS and its great value to our profession. She embodies the values, ethics and spirit of what we aspire our profession to be.”
The accolades are a result of having had a long and successful career that included both professional practice and providing public relations education.
According to a press release announcing the award, most of Barker's practice included work with educational institutions and the engineering and law professions. As an educator, she taught in public relations certificate and degree programs from the 1970s to the 1990s in Halifax and briefly in Melbourne, Australia. She also served as a mentor and guest lecturer for numerous students and classes over the decades. She helped numerous Mount Saint Vincent University and Nova Scotia Community College students as they pursued their studies in PR.
Although she retired in the late 2000s, she continued to do pro-bono work for various groups and organizations. Over her lifetime, she's assisted more than 25 charities. She's also helped promote the history of the Canadian Public Relations Society by editing books on the topic. Barker, a daughter of the late Olive and Clyde Barker and former Windsor Regional High School graduate, still has relatives residing in Kings and Hants counties and keeps abreast of what’s happening locally.