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Helen Celia Schubert ’52, Award-Winning, Nationally Recognized PR and Ad Exec Dies

Mar. 28, 2023
Category: Obituary

Helen Celia Schubert ’52, an award-winning, nationally recognized public relations and advertising executive whose Chicago career spanned more than 60 years, died suddenly from natural causes at age 92 shortly after admission to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Saturday, February 25, 2023. A leader in several professional organizations, active on philanthropic boards and an ardent feminist, she was named to the City of Chicago’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990.

According to an article about the Women’s Hall of Fame published in the Chicago Tribune on August 30, 1990, Chicago Commission on Human Relations Chairman Clarence Wood was quoted as saying: “These are women whose names you don’t see regularly in the newspapers but who give their time, energy, and abilities to the whole community. The city relies on people like these remarkable women.”

Schubert was also quoted in the article. “Before networking became a buzzword,’ Schubert said, she was among a group of female friends who began helping each other and other women in the civic and professional arenas. “It’s rewarding to see what networking has accomplished and continue making connections with other women.“

Schubert formed her own public relations firm, Helen C. Schubert & Associates, in 1967 after working in Chicago as a writer and account executive at the Philip Lesly Co., becoming United Cerebral Palsy Association public relations director and administrative director of the National Design Center in Chicago. For the next 50 years she was a well-known and well-connected consultant for interior design, furniture and apparel clients, as well as not-for-profit organizations.

Two years after launching her own company, she became president of the Chicago Professional Chapter of Women in Communications Inc. (WICI) and formed an ad hoc committee aimed at raising awareness about women’s rights among Illinois voters. It was a crucial time in state history when women began organizing, marching, and rallying. Schubert is included in Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1976, a University of Illinois Press anthology of women activists and is cited among those who threw their bras off the Michigan Avenue Bridge into the Chicago River to try to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the Illinois legislature. All attempts to persuade lawmakers to approve it ultimately failed by the original deadline but garnered much publicity. WICI Chicago Chapter honored her with its Distinguished Service Award and named her a Chicago Headliner. In 1996, WICI’s national organization paid homage to her career and volunteerism with its WICI Matrix Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to her professional and volunteer activities, she taught public relations courses for 15 years in the Department of Communication at Roosevelt University on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago from 1993-2008. In 2007, she was honored with the Tim Ryan Award for Part-time Instructors. In addition, she also taught public relations in the adult education classes at the Francis W. Parker School and the Latin School of Chicago on the city’s Near North Side. She was a mentor to hundreds of students and young professionals, helping them get jobs and negotiate promotions.

A large body of her work chronicling her professional and philanthropic career from 1963 through 1999 is housed at the Midwest Women’s History Collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago Library Special Collection. She donated 7.5 linear feet of papers which includes corporate case studies for international manufacturers of home furnishing as well as campaigns for national and local product and retail introductions. There are also case studies for national product launches, store openings as well as fundraising programs for health and wellness associations and societies.

She was quoted as saying, “In the communications world you must enjoy people of all ages, backgrounds, and respect their lifestyles. You must also have an abundance of energy and stamina.”

Schubert came to Chicago from her native Wisconsin after earning a bachelor of science degree in liberal arts/journalism in 1952 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she also wrote for the Daily Cardinal student newspaper. She loved being a Badger, and throughout her life, she rarely missed a Badger basketball and football or Packer football game on television. She also loved cats. Several preceded her in death: Louie O’Connell, named after the owner of O’Connell’s coffee shop in Chicago; Pepsi, Tang, and Duffy, a brown tabby believed to be her last cat.

A graveside memorial service was held on Friday, March 10, 2023, at Zur Ruhe Cemetery in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where Schubert was laid to rest next to her parents, Paul H. and Edna W. (Schmidt) Schubert. The Reverend Randy Raasch of First Immanuel Lutheran Church officiated. Arrangements by Mueller Funeral Homes of Cedarburg, WI.

Memorial donations honoring her may be made to:

University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She was a long-time and loyal supporter of her alma mater. Make check payable to the University of Wisconsin Foundation and write SJMC/Helen Schubert on the memo line. Mail to: Marit Barkve, UW-Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox, P.O. Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.

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