PR exec is AHS Outstanding Grad

Published 12:13 am Thursday, September 12, 2013

A former public relations executive who’ll be honored this week as an Andalusia High School Outstanding Graduate said a defining moment in her life came for her in 10th grade.


“I signed up for Miss Patricia Seymour’s journalism class at Andalusia High School and was immediately hooked on journalism and communications,” wrote Suzanne Brown Fornaro. “The class fulfilled the English requirement, so we read and made reports on the classics, studied grammar and composition, and all the rest – but we also staffed The Andy Hi-Lite, which consistently won top honors in the Alabama high school newspaper contest. I was co-editor of the Hi-Lite for two years and well on my way to a career in journalism.”

Fornaro studied advertising and public relations at the University of Georgia and earned a master’s in communications from Syracuse University.

She has worked as a newspaper journalist, a P.R. executive, and a communications professional. She began her career at The Alabama Journal in Montgomery. Later, she helped start a Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Greencastle, Ind.; worked with the Mobile Mental Health Center as a counselor, trainer, and educator; and spent the largest part of her career as director of public relations for Mobile-based Volkert & Associates.

In a letter of recommendation for the AHS award, Volkert’s current CEO, Perry A. Hand, wrote, “As a pioneer in public relations for an engineering firm, Suzanne recognized the opportunity to meld technical expertise and communications, thus establishing and maintaining a cohesive, efficient and professional profile for the company.”

“Suzanne is a wonderful role model for Andalusia High School students, particularly young women,” wrote her nominator and classmate, Harvey ‘Pete’ Donaldson. “She successfully managed her career progressions, while being a supportive spouse and parent; and she blended her professional skills with her lifelong commitment to help others; particularly those with learning disabilities and mental illness.”

“You as a committee have many recommendations for this candidate,” wrote another classmate, Margo Russell. “I just wanted to send a personal note. The highest compliment I can pay her is that I have never heard (her) say one negative remark about another human being.”

Fornaro has received many industry awards and recognitions for her volunteer work, including the Public Relations Council of Alabama’s lifetime achievement award, and the Southern Public Relations Federations’ professional achievement award.

She is a former national president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of two daughters, Nancy and Rachel, and have four grandchildren. The Fornaros make their home in Hayden, Ala.

Others who will be recognized as Outstanding Graduates at a luncheon on Friday are Suan Riley Salter, Shelby Searcy, Roger Powell and Richard Anthony.