Pat Tobin, founder of Tobin & Associates and co-founder of the National Black Public Relations Society, lost her long battle with colon cancer Tuesday at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Tobin was 65.
Considered by many to be a giant in the public relations field, Tobin was born Patricia L. Tobin in 1943 in White Plains, N.Y. and spent time there and in Philadelphia. She graduated from Overbrook High School and earned an associate’s degree from the Charles Morris Price School of Journalism before moving to Los Angeles in 1977.
Landing a job at KCBS-TV Channel 2, Tobin quickly grew a reputation for holding weekly Thursday “media nights” or “journalist jams” where people mingled, networked and exchanged business cards.
Tobin became a trailblazer after committing herself to furthering opportunities for minorities in the public relations field and representing clients who were seeking to reach African American consumers. With that goal in mind, Tobin left her job at KCBS in 1983 and started Tobin & Associates at her kitchen table. With her superb networking skills, her vibrant spirit and positive energy, Tobin quickly became recognized as a master in the public relations field. At countless events for over 25 years, Tobin could be spotted darting about the room where she introduced guests to each other in her tireless enthusiasm for networking.
In 1987, after the prime minister of Japan made disparaging remarks about African Americans, Tobin approached Toyota who then hired her to work on brand building, community relations and publicity in ethnic communities, a relationship that endured for over two decades.
Michael Rouse, corporate manager of philanthrophy and community affairs for Toyota, said that Tobin was indispensable to the company. “Pat was a key member of the Toyota team,” said Rouse. “She helped to maintain our relationships with the National Urban League, the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, the Congressional Black Caucus, La Raza and MALDEF. Wherever we needed Pat to go, she was there.”
Reflecting on Tobin’s tireless work ethic and boundless energy, Rouse said, “There was no one more enthusiastic, vibrant, or full of life than Pat. She was constantly introducing people and bringing them together. If you had a hundred people like Pat running the world, the world would be at peace.”
As she continued to build the Tobin & Associates’ name, clients such as Johnnie Cochran, Spike Lee, Louis Gossett Jr., the Los Angeles NAACP and the Los Angeles Urban League flocked to the woman who had a “golden touch” in public relations.
“Pat was a true trailblazer in so many ways and such an inspiration to so many of us,” said Tosha Whitten-Griggs, former BET communications director and owner of Front Page Communications. “Whether it was black women, mothers, career women, public relations professionals, Pat embodied the best of the spirit in all of us in terms of her diligence, her work ethic and her humanity.”
“She was a wonderful mentor who never met a stranger,” said Tracy Underwood, national manager of corporate communications for Toyota Motor Sales who knew Tobin for 20 years. “She had a great sense of humor. One time, we were in the Plaza Hotel in New York City and we saw talk show host Johnny Carson having dinner. Pat dared herself to go up and speak to him. She approached Johnny and they chatted at length like they had known each other for years,” Underwood recalled.
Whitten-Griggs, who received mentoring from Tobin, further reflected, “Pat was an amazing person and a warrior. When you think about the barriers and the doors she broke down so that those coming behind her could walk through those doors, it becomes clear what an amazing individual she really was.”
Michael Lewellen, former head of corporate relations at BET who now serves as vice president of public relations for the Universal Orlando Resorts, said, “Pat was a rare combination of friend, mentor, teacher and hard worker. You don’t always get those attributes in a single individual,” stated Lewellen, who knew Tobin for 20 years. “Pat could easily go from a high level executive meeting and then turn around, roll up her sleeves and start stuffing press kits.”
Wynona Redmon, president of the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS), remembers Tobin as a tireless worker with a heart of gold who was devoted to mentoring young people as well as building the organization. “I’ve been privileged to work with someone who was caring and committed to her profession,” reflected Redmon who also stated that Tobin co-founded the NBPRS in 1987 and continued to serve on its board of directors. “Pat will always be president of NBPRS. She never tired of helping interns and young professionals break into the field of public relations. She’s mentored so many of us in this field that her legacy will continue to live on.”
Jackie Hawthorne, president of the Los Angeles African American Women Political Action Committee (LAAAPAC), recalls that Tobin was a networking master who chaired several committees for LAAAPAC. “You couldn’t rest around her–she was always getting you to meet someone,” Hawthorne recalled.
Like many friends and associates, Hawthorne was stunned after receiving news about Tobin’s cancer diagnosis. “She was so deeply spiritual–her spirit was so strong,” recalls Hawthorne. “She just would not quit. She fought to the bitter end. I remember running into her at an event and I didn’t expect to see her, but there she was. I sent her a text message that read, ‘You are amazing.’ She sent a text message back that read, ‘It’s hard to hit a moving target.’”
Dr. Geraldine Washington, president of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, praised Tobin and recalls that the tireless public relations maven organized the NAACP’s annual dinner. “The NAACP deeply regrets the passing of our friend and event planner Patricia E. Tobin. As a professional she went beyond the requirements to provide her personal expertise and guidance. The NAACP will deeply miss her hearty laugh and her pleasant smile.”
Underwood further relates that, “Pat’s spirit was always positive. When she walked into a room, everyone else just faded into the background. But the beauty of it is that most people didn’t mind fading into the background because they just enjoyed being in her presence.”
“She was such a great soul,” reflected Willis Edwards, national board member of the NAACP who knew Tobin for 30 years. “She always wanted black people to think positive and she always stood up for us. She was the constant communicator who worked to get black people opportunities in the entertainment industry. My prayers go out to her family and we hope that all of us will take her as an example to continue to be positive with our lives.”
“For the past three decades, Pat Tobin has been the ultimate networking conduit – putting people together who, otherwise, might have never crossed paths. She had the ability to simply pick up the telephone and move mountains. Her generosity and incredible energy are just a small part of her rich legacy,” said Kathy Williamson, editor in chief of Our Weekly.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, a close personal friend, reflected, “Pat was an extraordinary woman. Even though she has left this world, her spirit lives on. Her joy was contagious and she always lit up the room when she entered. I will always remember Pat as a strong professional, a wonderful friend, and a great woman.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the following: Pat Tobin Scholarship Fund or Pat Tobin Memorial Fund, 4929 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 245 , Los Angeles , CA 90010.
Final services are pending.