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October 2005

Mary Ann Lauricella - Multi-Talented Media Maximalist

by Joseph H. RADDER

People are frequently called minimalists -- those who favor doing as little as possible to achieve a goal. Mary Ann Lauricella is the exact opposite -- a maximalist who believes in employing every available public relations tool available to reach a set of goals.

To illustrate, some PR practitioners would get out a few news releases and expect that to achieve a PR goal. Mary Ann Lauricella would be more likely to put together a complete strategic PR program, not just news releases, but letters, invitations, ads, public service announcements, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, speeches and web-site content. She even edits books for clients, conducts news conferences, coaches spokespersons, conducts research, in order to target specific audiences or to reach specific goals.

It's not unusual for the Lauricella Public Relations Co. to be called in when a client is facing a PR crisis, to pour cooling positive waters on the fires of negative publicity.

"Sometimes companies face challenges in communicating with their own employees. In those cases, I assist with their internal communication," she said.

Lauricella Public Relations Co. works for very large companies with hundreds or thousands of employees as well as small businesses with just a few people on board. "I also do a lot of work for not-for-profit organizations," Mary Ann told us.

She indicated that working for large companies is exciting, "But then you get a call from a small in-home baker, for example, who wants a brochure done for her business. It's fun to go from one setting to another."

Mary Ann has served on numerous community and charity boards over the years. She is past chair of the Western New York Public Broadcasting (WNED) Board of Trustees. Current board memberships include the Better Business Bureau, Christ the King Seminary, and Restoring Sight International.

Traveling is Lauricella's favorite form of recreation. "I've traveled around the world," she said. "That was an interesting hobby for many, many years starting when I was just out of college. It's great to recall my trips to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand. I still enjoy traveling, but in recent years they have been shorter trips. You learn things through travel that you really can't learn any other way."

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9 months old, wearing a dress Dad bought in Kentucky. Parents Ann and the late Russell's 60th wedding anniversary - 2000.
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Lorraine, age 3 and Mary Ann, age 5. Holy Cross kindergarten graduation play with Sister Mary Andrew Fasanello.
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Arlene, Mary Ann and Lorraine stand behind Ann, Ralph and Russell - 1968.

Mary Ann Laricella was born in Buffalo in 1943. Her father, Russell A. Lauricella, died in March of this year. He was a retired City of Buffalo water department inspector. During World War II he worked at Curtiss-Wright, manufacturing wings for P-40 fighter planes. A skilled gardener, he grew flowers and vegetables each year from seeds that he started in his basement. "My father was a very bright man, a very just person," Lauricella remembered. "He didn't tolerate injustice. He loved to read, and had a very good sense of humor."

Her mother, the former Ann L. Zarcone, lives in North Buffalo. Before Mary Ann was born, she worked for the M.H.Birge and Sons wallpaper company, just a few years after artist Charles Burchfield headed Birge's design department and his work was featured in their wall-coverings "My mother is probably the most influential person in my life," Mary Ann said, smiling. "She is certainly the person I admire most. She is totally dedicated to her family. She is the most selfless person I have ever met, offering unconditional love."

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The Lauricella Family - Standing: Mary Ann; the late Arlene, Matthew and Gene Krzyzynski; Marian and Ralph Lauricella. Seated: Lorraine and Lynn Lococo; Russell, Andrew and Ann Lauricella; Lauren Krzyzynski, Tom and Mark Lococo - 1987.
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Receiving the LaSalle Award from dear friend, Father James Demske at Canisius. Youngest Lauricellas are niece Amanda, and nephews Vincent, Michael and Andrew.

Mary Ann has a brother, Ralph, who lives in Buffalo, and a sister, Lorraine Lococo, of the Town of Tonawanda. A sister, Arlene Krzyzynski, died of breast cancer eleven years ago. There are eight nieces and nephews, "I'm very close to all my nieces and nephews," she said, with a twinkle in her eye. "They range in age from 12 to 28." That information shattered our brief illusion of eight little children running up to greet Aunt Mary Ann when she came to visit. We're sure that was the case in years past.

"Until I was eleven years old, I grew up on the west side of Buffalo," Mary Ann remembered. "I went to Holy Cross School. Then we moved to North Buffalo, and I went to St. Margaret School through elementary school graduation." Her high school education was fulfilled at Mt. St. Joseph Academy and then she went on to college at Canisius, where she majored in English.

"I always wanted to be a newspaper reporter," she said. "When I was eleven or twelve, I heard that you could choose your subjects in high school. So I wondered what courses would be best to prepare me to be a newspaper reporter. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Courier-Express, I believe, unbeknownst to my parents. The letter landed on (Executive Editor) Cy King's desk. I got a letter back saying 'you write a very interesting letter, I'd like to meet you.' So my mother gave me a couple of bus tokens. I remember going down to the Courier-Express, and sitting in Cy King's office. My feet didn't touch the floor. He was just absolutely wonderful. He became a friend and mentor to me. When I was in eighth grade, he suggested that I go to the St. Bonaventure Press Day. I did, and I continued to go to the Press Days each year. When I was a freshman at Mt. St. Joseph I met Sister Joan Campana, my English teacher. She took an interest in me and gave me the opportunity to write for the student newspaper. We didn't have any journalism classes, but she stayed after school with me and went through journalism principles once a week for over a year.

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In her TV/radio columnist days at The Buffalo News. Meeting President Cleveland's children in
New Hampshire, 1972
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Interviewing young Liza Minnelli in Buffalo before her show. Visiting radio legend Joey Reynolds and family in Colorado.

"Cy King hired me as a copy kid when I was 16. In those days, the editors and reporters would yell 'Boy!' and you'd have to run. We wore sneakers so we could go faster. There were no four-hour shifts, so I worked eight-hour shifts three times a week while I was going to school full-time." These shifts at the Courier-Express ran as late as midnight and one a.m.

Mary Ann's "big break" came when city editor Jim Schrader gave her a small re-write to do. Apparently pleased with this test of her ability, the Courier assigned her as a feature writer in the women's department for the summer. As it turned out, the job became permanent. "I was writing with a by-line when I was nineteen years old and still in college."

Thus began an award-winning newspaper career, at the Courier-Express and the Buffalo News, as a reporter, feature writer, and radio/television critic. During this period she won nine Page One awards for excellence in journalism. Among those she has interviewed are David Ben Gurion, President Grover Cleveland's youngest son, Francis; and scores of celebrities including Carol Burnett, Julia Child, Tom Hanks, and Dolly Parton.

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Albany swearing-in ceremony with then Deputy DMV Commissioner Ed Sheridan and Commissioner Les Foschio - 1981. Canisius Alumni Award presented by Chet Pawenska and Father James Demske - 1982.
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As Media Division Chair, accepting a Variety Club Telethon donation from Mike Benevento. At Empire Bank-sponsored "Toy Depot" fund-raiser for Children's Hospital.
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First woman to receive the Canisius Regents' Distinguished Citizen Award, 30 years after its founding.

In 1981, she became the first woman to achieve a commissioner rank in the New York State Motor Vehicles. Department. While in Albany she developed a number of public information campaigns including the STOP-DWI media campaign, which won national and international awards.

She returned to Buffalo in 1983 to become administrative vice president for a national savings bank, Empire of America. Here she directed all national, regional, and internal communications.

Mary Ann founded her public relations consulting firm in 1989 with her longtime friend, New York public relations executive, Fred Mackerodt. She has been the sole owner of Lauricella Public Relations Co. since 1990. Two years after starting her business, she was selected to receive the Athena Award from the then Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. The Athena, which recognizes the highest level of professional excellence, is just one of many awards that almost completely cover her office wall. By the way, she was competing with thirty other nominees for the Athena Award.

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Christy May, "Houses of Worship" producer, receives the WNED Mary Ann Lauricella Award. With WNED's Don Boswell and "Reading Rainbow" Emmy Award.
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Buffalo-area board members of Restoring Sight International at Boston meeting: Dr. S.M. Saleh, Gene Vukelic, Dr. Chairat Butsunturn and Joe Williams. A radio interview hosted by fellow St. Margaret School and Buffalo News alumnus Gary Deeb.
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Fred Mackerodt attends a Buffalo Philharmonic Ball when Mary Ann chaired the publicity committee.

Her alma mater, Canisius College, which she served as vice chair of the Board of Trustees and president of the Alumnae Association, has honored her with its Board of Regents Distinguished Citizen Achievement Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, and the LaSalle Medal.

Mary Ann Lauricella has been a skilled communicator for more than 40 years even though she's still some years away from retirement. This is indeed a unique record. From her successes with the nationally-recognized STOP-DWI campaign to her work with WNED, she has made many major contributions to this community. We should all be grateful to have Mary Ann Lauricella as a citizen of western New York.

Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.

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