Interview Segments on Topic: Selecting a PR Career
Though born in Saco, Maine, Ehinger spent most of his early years in Dover, Delaware. From there he attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1943 with a degree in economics. After graduation, he joined the Navy as an Ensign in the Supply Corps and served as supply officer on a destroyer in the Pacific.
After the war, Ehinger was hired by Western Electric as a buyer's clerk in the Purchasing Department in New York City. (Western Electric was the purchasing agent for the Bell Telephone companies). After advancing to senior buyer, he transferred to an operating job at a large service center in Los Angeles, and eventually became the manager. With about 1,100 employees, he thought Western Electric should be better known in the Southern California area, so he hired the first-ever public relations professional. Eventually, the P.R. Vice President in New York transferred him to New York as Director of Community Relations and Public Affairs. This job was followed by assignments in personnel, defense activities, and finally Ehinger became Secretary and Treasurer of the company (Western had an outside board of directors). From this assignment, he became Vice President of Public Relations in 1973. In 1982 Ed Block, AT&T P.R. Vice President, asked him to come to AT&T on January 1, 1984. With Ed, Ehinger established the AT&T Foundation and the Arthur W. Page Society. The first annual conference was held at the Hershey Inn in Hershey, Pa. At that time, the Society's membership came primarily from the telephone companies that were being divested from AT&T. Ehinger comments that it has been a source of pride to see how the Page Society has grown and become the leader in the profession.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it’s Friday, May 14, 2010 and I’m sitting with Bob EHINGER who just happens to be visiting Penn State for his granddaughter’s graduation tomorrow, which looks to be a beautiful day. Bob, what I’d like to do is divide your life into two sections, pre and post AT&T. When you were elected to the Page Society you were a corporate vice president for public relations at AT&T.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s talk about what got you there. Let’s talk about your life before that and all the experiences up to that point that landed you at AT&T.
EHINGER: Well, after the war, that’s the big one, I worked for Western Electric starting in 1946 and I had 35 years there and Ed Block decided—he was AT&T’s vice president—that he would like me to come over with a divestiture coming up with the Bell System and to help move a lot of people back to their companies to set up the AT&T foundation and to do you might say, a lot of the administrative work that was required to set up the new AT&T.
INTERVIEWER: When was that?
EHINGER: 1981. I was with AT&T for 21 months. 35 years of Western Electric, 9 of them as vice president of public relations which also had public affairs active, in other words the legislative kind of thing too. So, when I went over to AT&T, I did not have responsibility for getting out press releases or any of that sort of stuff, it was more an administrative kind of thing. And I helped set up the Arthur Page foundation, I guess my name ought to be on the initial document.