MSPRA Celebrates 60th Anniversary in 2019 

In 1959, the Barbie Doll launched, Alaska became the 49th state and Hawaii became the 50th, the St. Lawrence Seaway was completed, NASA introduced The Mercury Seven—America's first astronauts (including John H. Glenn Jr, and Alan Shepard Jr), the US launched the first Weather Station in space, Bonanza premiered—the first weekly television series broadcast completely in color, IBM shipped the transistor-based IBM 1401 mainframe, Xerox launched the first commercial copier, the microchip, the Etch A Sketch and the computer modem were all invented; and MSPRA was born.

Sixty years ago, ten visionary public relations professionals petitioned the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Board to charter the Michigan Chapter of NSPRA (aka MSPRA).  Those leaders were:  John D. Marrs, Director of Special Services, Lansing Public Schools, Lansing; Vivan L. Bean, Coordinator of Information Services, Wayne Community Schools, Wayne;  Robert M. Wall, Consultant, Public Relations, Wayne County Board of Education, Detroit; Otis A. Crosby, Assistant Director, Information Services, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit; Sylvia Ciernick, Editor of Publications, Dearborn Public Schools, Dearborn; Lawrence F. Kennedy, Administrative Assistant, Grosse Pointe Public Schools, Grosse Pointe; Betty Demorest, Editor of Publications, Livonia Public Schools, Livonia; George E. Leeds, Director, Information Services, Ypsilanti Public Schools, Ypsilanti; Ned S. Hubbell, Director, Information Services, Port Huron Public Schools, Port Huron; and Vern J. Schipper, Director, Adult Education and Community Services, Holland Public Schools, Holland.

These innovators paved the way for MSPRA’s work today.  And, even though six decades have passed and the leaders’ names have changed, this list still reflects who we are.  MSPRA members of different ages and genders from across this great state in urban, suburban and rural districts still come together, drawing on their variety of backgrounds and different job assignments under various job titles to advance education through responsible communication.

Over this year, we’ll mark our anniversary in a number of different ways, engaging you in the effort and asking for your help.  For example, if you (know someone who might) have MSPRA memorabilia (old newsletters, old conference programs, etc.), or know one of the original petitioners, or their family members, or other retired MSPRA members, please contact us at

If you are currently working in one of the original petitioner’s districts listed above, please check to see if there are any old MSPRA files tucked away.  Beware of dust!  If you find any, please contact us at

Help us celebrate our Diamond Anniversary.  Send your congratulations to MSPRA at  We may post or share it.

Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles (right) presents anniversary letter to MSPRA President Karen Heath (left) and Executive Director Gerri Allen at the 2019 MSPRA Conference.

"We appreciate MSPRA's selfless partnership with other school leaders and agencies, including the Michigan Department of Education, to impove school communication throughout the state."
--Sheila A. Alles
   Interim State Superintendent
--Casandra E. Ulbrich
   President, State Board of Education

The MSPRA Board prepares to share 60th Anniversary cake with Annual Conference attendees.