Congratulations 2020 PRSA Oregon Spotlight Award and Award of Distinction Honorees

Graphic in gold tones that says: PRSA Oregon Spotlight Awards 2020: Oh the Stories We Can Tell." The text is in white on a gold banner. The background image is gold trophies.

Last night, PRSA Oregon celebrated the best campaigns and tactics our local PR pros delivered this year. The PRSA Oregon Spotlight Awards recognize campaigns and tactics that exemplify excellence and leadership in public relations, digital media, and integrated communications. The Awards of Distinction commemorate commitment, support, leadership and lifetime achievement by outstanding communication leaders.

We are proud to share the achievements of an exceptional group of public relations and communications professionals and showcase their outstanding work and contributions to our industry and community.


Michael Lewellen, APR

William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award 

See video.

William W. Marsh was a towering figure in Oregon public relations, and was referred to as, “the dean of public relations in Oregon.” In 1963, Marsh served as president of what was then the Columbia River Chapter of PRSA. In his honor, the Oregon Chapter of PRSA presents the William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award to a chapter member who has advanced the field of public relations, accomplished landmark professional achievements, and furthered the mission of PRSA. 

Michael Lewellen, APR, is this year’s recipient of the William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award. A native of Jonesboro, Arkansas, Lewellen holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Arkansas State University and is an accredited public relations practitioner through both the Public Relations Society of America and International Association of Business Communicators. He is a dynamic force within PRSA, serving on the Oregon chapter board and as a coach and mentor to many members. Career honors include the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award for Meritorious Service in Mass Communications from the Southern Regional Press Institute; the National Black Public Relations Society Founders Award and Pat Tobin Award for achievements in the public relations profession; and numerous other awards for communications campaigns and media tactics.

Over the last 38 years, Lewellen’s award-winning career includes work in media strategies, reputation management, sports and entertainment publicity, crisis response and brand communications. He has held leadership positions with the Portland Trailblazers, Nike, Turner Sports, Fox Sports Net, Black Entertainment Television, NBC Universal and Heart of Florida United Way. Today, he is the first Black executive to serve as vice president for marketing and communications at the University of Portland. 

Thelma Hale, MBA

New Professional Award of Excellence 

Presented to a “rising star” in the industry in Oregon, the New Professional Award of Excellence honors a chapter member who has entered the field of public relations within the past five years. The award is considered an indicator of people to watch for in the industry and is presented to a professional who has demonstrated his or her commitment to advancing public relations through career achievements, volunteerism, and the highest standards of professionalism. Thelma Hale is the 2020 recipient.

As a young professional, Hale is active in our chapter. She consistently volunteers for events and programs, bringing fresh insight, creativity and a winning smile to whatever she’s working on. Hale also serves as a mentor with Girls Inc. and as a volunteer for Partners in Diversity.

Hale is a Portland, Oregon native who attended high school at Benson Polytechnic High School, where she majored in communications. She graduated from Western Oregon University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in graphic design. Hale went on to obtain an MBA in project management from Concordia University.

She started her healthcare career as an intern with Legacy Health in the Marketing Department and eventually was hired as a full-time graphic artist. Thelma’s career flourished at Legacy. She was promoted to public relations account coordinator and later to marketing associate. She recently accepted the position of internal communication coordinator on the newly formed internal communications team.

David Lucas

Ron Schmidt Community Involvement Award 

“For nearly 30 years as an aide to Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, then as the owner of the state’s biggest and most influential public relations firm, Ron Schmidt stood at the center of public policy in business, government and the arts.” That is how the Oregonian once described Ron Schmidt. 

This year’s honoree is David Lucas. An enthusiastic advocate for helping youth realize their individual potential through education and sport, Lucas uses his communication and advocacy skills to empower Oregon’s young people. He is committed to uplifting all so that everyone has a seat at the table. 

Lucas is the executive director of the Maurice Lucas Foundation and the President/Owner of All in One Basketball. In June 2018 the Portland Business Journal recognized Mr. Lucas as one of the top 40 business leaders in Portland under the age of 40. In addition to leading the Maurice Lucas Foundation, he currently serves on the Portland Trail Blazers Foundation’s Board of Professionals and the Providence Milwaukie Foundation Board. He also received the 2020 Liberty & Hope Award from the League of Minority Voters. David resides in Lake Oswego.

Lise Harwin, APR; Mark Mohammadpour, APR and Dave Thompson, APR 

Olga M. Haley Mentorship Award 

A longtime member of the PRSA Portland Metro Chapter, Olga M. Haley served as president in 2003 and continuously gave back to the PRSA community by serving as a mentor to members of the chapter. Haley passed away in March 2014 at the age of 69, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy of mentorship, excellence and professionalism. The Olga M. Haley Membership Award is given to a PRSA Oregon Chapter member who demonstrates exceptional mentorship and supportiveness of others as they advance their careers in public relations. 

This year we have three very deserving recipients, Lise Harwin, APR; Mark Mohammadpour, APR and Dave Thompson, APR.

Lise Harwin, APR is the founder of Portland IComms, an informal network for local communicators who are excited about employee engagement. She has coached and guided many fellow public relations professionals with her thoughtful advice and award-winning experience. Active in PRSA locally and nationally, Harwin served as vice president of Communications for PRSA’s Employee Communications Section and has presented several times at the section’s annual Connect conference. She currently serves as a Leadership Assembly delegate for PRSA Oregon, which she will do again in 2021. For 17 years, Harwin made a career in media relations — pitching organizational stories ranging from life-saving at a Level 1 trauma hospital to life-affirming at the American Red Cross to life-changing in higher education. Now she’s turned her corporate raconteuring and social media savvy inward, transitioning to employee engagement and communication for the Port of Portland and PDX, America’s best airport. 

Coach is the perfect word to describe Mark Mohammadpour, APR. Not only is he a coach by trade, but he has also coached many public relations professionals in Oregon and around the country on successful strategies and tactics. Mohammadpour is a past president of PRSA Oregon and has served in many other roles within the organization. He lives up the PRSA motto “advancing the profession and the professional.” Currently, Mohammadpour serves as the “Workplace Wellness” columnist for PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics. He is a communications executive and certified health coach. After losing and keeping off 150 pounds for more than a decade, Mark launched Chasing the Sun, a health coaching company for communications and marketing professionals. Prior to launching Chasing the Sun, Mark spent his career at Weber Shandwick and Edelman, leading award-winning programs for more than a dozen global brands, including Adobe, Microsoft, Samsung, and the U.S. Army.  

Almost everyone in the Oregon public relations community knows Dave Thompson, APR. He has mentored hundreds of communications professionals over the years. Thompson’s sound advice and encouraging manner gives people a big boost on their way to their career goals. Sometimes jokingly referred to as “chapter president for life,” Thompson has been an active board member and volunteer with PRSA Oregon. Thompson’s career included serving as reporter, anchor, corporate communication director and public information officer. With nearly 40 years’ experience in strategic communications planning, crisis communications, media relations, media training, speaker/presentation coaching, reputation management, government relations, stakeholder outreach, teaching, FEMA ICS/NIMS training and video/audio production, he has the skills to excel in his new role as an independent practitioner.


The Spotlight Awards showcase the best of our industry and really the best of the profession. These awards were given high marks by the judges for exceptional campaigns and tactics that exceeded goals, got noticed and measured much success.

  • Event Campaign: VanNatta Public Relations for TinyFest NW
  • Communications Campaign: Oregon Dept. of Transportation for Real ID
  • Communications Campaign: Finn Partners for America’s Lawns: A safe place to play
  • Investor Relations Campaign: Grady Britton and Coconut Bliss for A Plan-Based Funding Success
  • Public Service Campaign: VanNatta Public Relations for Salem Fire Foundation Community Connect
  • Community Relations Campaign: C+C and Alaska Airlines for #FillBeforeYouFly initiative
  • Community Relations Campaign: VanNatta Public Relations for The Reed Ballroom: Polishing the Hidden Gem of Salem
  • Community Relations Campaign: Quinn Thomas for AT&T Believe Portland
  • Brand Management Campaign: VanNatta Public Relations for Rediscover the Reed


The Merit awards were found to be of good quality and merited honorable mentions for all the hard work.

  • Crisis Communications Campaign: Prosper Portland for the Small Business Relief Fund
  • Event Campaign: Grady Britton and Guide Dogs for the Blind
  • Marketing Consumer Product Campaign: A.wordsmith for the Black Walnut Inn
  • Public Service Campaign: Partners in Diversity for A way forward diversity retention project
  • Public Services Campaign: C+C and Clean Water Services for Our Water campaign
  • Public Service Campaign C+C and Washington County for COVID-19 awareness
  • Brand Management Campaign: University of Portland for School of Nursing 85th Anniversary
  • Brand Management Campaign: Berg & Associates LLC and OnPoint Community Credit Union for Helping Oregonians mange financially through COVID-19
  • Social Media Campaign: Radiance Communications and Don Pancho for Think Outside the Taco
  • Marketing B-to-B Campaign: Allegiant Strategies Northwest for George Fox University Physician Assistant Program Student Clerkship
  • Community Relations Campaign: Grady Britton for the Oregon Convention Center renovation
  • Community Relations Campaign: VanNatta Public Relations for Salem Police Foundation training simulator campaign
  • Media Relations Tactic: Radiance Communications and Alpenrose for Udderly Convenient Home Delivery
  • Media Relations Tactic: C+C and Alaska Airlines for the Swell Deals Pitch
  • Media Relations Tactic: Quinn Thomas and Walmart for Pollinator Garden campaign
  • Podcast: Clark College Foundation for Beyond the Tragedy
  • Printed Communication: University of Oregon for Oregon Quarterly
  • Video: Clark College Foundation for “Tracking COVID-19: Clark alumnus leads data source that’s powering the nation’s information
  • Website: University of Oregon for their COVID-19 website
  • News Release: Madeline Turnock and Healthy Democracy for First Virtual Citizens Assembly

Participation and membership in PRSA — advancing the profession in line with the standards and ethics of our association and honoring our work that upholds these values — is so important to our practice and the many organizations and communities served by this work. 

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