You could tell there was something special about her, the minute she walked into a room. When she walked into my Tuesday night class, I’ll admit, I was falling asleep, head bob and everything, but as she told us about her life of public relations, all thoughts of sleep vanished. I’m not normally one to raise my hand in class more than needed, but the day she was there, I knew I had to, almost as much as I wanted to; to learn everything I could from her. The first thing I had to learn was her name, and then how to stay in contact with her. She, is Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, and she managed in an hour what I’d taken 19 years to figure out: what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up.’
It’s been a year since that one class, and Meredith’s gone above and beyond helping me decide what I wanted to do, she’s given me the connections and opportunities to do it. But just who is Meredith Avakian-Hardaway, and what’s she done? Well, we could ask her friends. Or her boss. Her colleagues? Or maybe her teachers from when she was in school? Or all of them; all of them eager to talk about Meredith, all of them full of praise, respect, and admiration. Or we could start with the basics of her life. But it’s not the basics, or the many awards, distinctions, and honors in her work as a PR professional that she’s received, that speaks the most about her, it’s the people. I think Meredith’s other half, Marques Hardaway, put it best, “Meredith is a kind and generous person, an honorable wife and caring family member. She is intelligent, hard-working, and pursues her goals with enthusiasm. Her experiences in life have molded her to be strong, yet compassionate. I am in constant admiration of her professional achievements, and in awe of her personal growth.”
Before writing this piece, I reached out to some key people for a few lines or sentences about Meredith, but what I got back was staggering in its positivity towards her. What started as a ‘few’ people became a lot of people, indicating just how impactful Meredith has been. I started with her boss, Mark A. Tarasiewicz, Executive Director at the Philadelphia Bar Association and Philadelphia Public Relations Association Hall of Famer, and from him got in touch with MANY more people. Mark told me that “her arrival as Director of Communications and Marketing for the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association in January 2014 required her to become a quick study on the intricacies of the city’s legal community and justice system. She met this challenge head-on by immediately extending herself as a resource to the Association’s leadership and hundreds of committee, section, and division lawyer-volunteers. With her own lifelong passion for justice, Meredith maintains it was destiny that brought her to the Philadelphia Bar Association.” Not only does Meredith dedicate her time to furthering the PR profession as a whole, but she also works for justice for Armenia and Armenian refugees, AND has managed to write 2 books of poetry. “Meredith Avakian-Hardaway has spoken to many of my Temple and Drexel classes, and she has a wonderful interaction with my students–they always love meeting and learning from her,” Rosemary Rys, friend and colleague to Meredith, told me. “I was always amazed back then at how she could be the perfect corporate DuPont executive during the day, but then let her hair down (literally!) after work, reinsert her diamond nose piercing, and get out that hookah, bake baklava, or do any of her many Armenian skills. A very talented poet, her on-target, often tongue-in-cheek poems truly resonate with my students and everyone else.”
Of all PR alumni of Temple, Meredith is known most notably to current PR students as the one that turned our PRSSA chapter around and prevented it from dying. Our very own professor Gregg Feistman said about Meredith: “It was apparent from the very beginning Meredith was a star-in-the-making. Her smarts, ambition, and drive were evident in the way she viewed her leadership role as President of Temple’s PRSSA. As faculty advisor, I always knew I had to do my homework before I met with Meredith to discuss PRSSA chapter business, because she had done hers.”
Meredith Avakian-Hardaway will be receiving the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Rising Star Award, at the Lew Klein Awards Luncheon at Temple University, on September 26, and everyone who knows her could not be more proud and supportive. Meredith, there are so many people who’ve congratulated you; who are going to congratulate you, that this post could go on for miles. Instead, read on for some heartfelt words.
“We are especially proud of Meredith as she carries forward the Temple tradition of excellence through her role at the Bar Association, and we congratulate her for her well-deserved honor as the 2014 recipient of the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Rising Star Award.”
– Mark A. Tarasiewicz, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
“I want to congratulate Meredith on this prestigious award, I’m sure it’s a precursor to many more. It’s always a pleasure working together, she’s a consummate professional and has helped me frame my responses to many different issues and events.”
– William P. Fedullo, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
“Outstanding work Meredith, congratulations from me and the Bar Association. We look forward to more of your timeless dedication and commitment to the Bar and the justice system in the future.”
– Albert S. Dandridge III, Chancellor-Elect of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
“I can’t think of anyone in public relations who deserves the Rising Star prize at the Lew Klein awards more than Meredith does.”
– Lisette Bralow, Philadelphia Public Relations Association President.
“Meredith is not only a wonderful public relations executive and role model, she is also someone I am honored to call a friend.”
– Gina F. Rubel, Esq. President/CEO Furia Rubel Communications.
“I’m very proud to be her friend and colleague!!! A very big congratulations on receiving the Lew Klein Rising Star award, and thank you for all the classes you’ve spoken in and will speak in!”
– Rosemary E. Rys, Professor at Temple and Drexel Universities, colleague and friend.
“It’s no surprise to see how successful Meredith has been in her career. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Look out world!”
– Gregg C. Feistman, Professor at Temple University, PRowl and PRSSA Advisor.
“Meredith is the ultimate go-getter, often juggling multiple responsibilities including work, PPRA and personal projects, including publishing books of poetry. I’m constantly in awe of her determination and drive. There is no one more deserving of this prestigious award. Congratulations Meredith!”
– Jessica Lawlor, Philadelphia Public Relations Association Vice President of Membership.
“Meredith is well deserving of her Lew Klein Alumni in the Media ‘Rising Star’ honors, and of the many more symbols of recognition and gratitude yet to come her way.”
– Christopher Lukach, President at Anne Klein Communications Group
“Meredith, your arrival at the Philadelphia Bar Association in January was the best thing that ever happened to us. Your success is our success, and we wish you a lot more of it!”
– Paul Kazaras and Naomi McLaurin, Philadelphia Bar Association, dear friends.
“We (her family) are honored by her having been selected to receive this latest award, and are humbled by all of the work and patience that is at the root of her achievements.”
– Marques Hardaway, loving husband.
“The first time we met, I remember wondering how someone could do so much good work in so little time. Working with you now still hasn’t enabled me to figure out your secret, even seeing you find so much time to teach me the workings of the world of PR. You always surprise me with your thoughtfulness; those sandwiches you told me about have been all I’ve eaten the last 2 days. There’s nobody more deserving, and I look forward to seeing where you take your career next!”
– Faiz M. Mandviwalla, proud intern, mentee, and author of this post.