By Donna Parker
Jill Graham Collins ’70, who received a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Trinity in 1970, definitely has her finger on the pulse of the city—and in this case, that city also happens to be the nation’s capital. As a dedicated public relations professional, this native of San Antonio garners publicity for the big boys, but she’s more than up to the task.
“I love being in D.C. The national news is made here although I get back to San Antonio as often as I can,” adds Jill.
The road to owning her power firm in the District was paved back in 1980 when Jill’s SA-based PR firm was retained by the Republican Party of Bexar County to manage media relations for candidates that rolled through town. Being a political PR groupie of sorts, Jill was thrilled to meet her press secretary idol—Pete Teeley, who first worked for Ronald Reagan and then for candidate George H. W. Bush, the former ambassador to China.
“I was so excited to meet Pete in person that I barely paid attention to Ambassador Bush,” chuckles Jill, who must have made a huge impression.
“I began doing advance work for Vice President Bush while running my PR business in San Antonio until I was hired full-time in 1984 as a campaign advance person. In the first Bush Administration she was the public affairs director of the National Endowment for the Arts. I followed the Bushes to Washington because, quite simply, they are the finest people I’ve ever known,” states Jill, matter-of-factly.
“Years later, in 2000, Mrs. Barbara Bush was hitting five cities during a cross-country campaign push for her son and they brought all of us former advance people out of mothballs. When Mrs. Bush deplaned in Detroit, she saw me and shouted, ‘It’s you!,’ hugging me on the tarmac and ignoring the dignitaries waiting patiently at the bottom of the stairs! They are very real people.”
Working behind the scenes for these high-profile clients is a comfortable place for Jill. It’s something she cultivated as an Alamo Heights High School student working on theatrical productions making sure there were enough programs and the appropriate props were in place. It was a PR job that she held long before she even understood what public relations really even was. After high school, Jill spent a short time at a women’s college before settling in on the Trinity campus.
“It never occurred to me that I would meet people from all over the world at Trinity. It was just a college in my hometown but between following my dreams of studying journalism and making so many friends in Chi Beta Epsilon, it became my world.”
Jill stays in touch with her Chi Beta sisters from Trinity days and tries to catch up with Dean Coleen Grissom, department of English, whenever possible.
“She was so influential and always just seemed like my own personal dean of students,” says Jill.
“When I attended her lecture during Alumni Weekend last October, I found myself hanging on her every word and loving everything she said.”
“Also, Dave Burkett, department of communication, gave me the confidence to do what I do. I knew I wanted to study journalism but he gave me purpose, truly becoming my idol because after years of being eager to study in my field, Dave was brilliant, funny and smart in journalism and it was such a motivator for me.”
Jill, who spends time off the job with her husband, a real estate developer originally from New York State, is happy about one thing. He has agreed to move to Texas when they eventually retire. It’s a move she eagerly anticipates.
“I never considered how much I would miss the architecture of my city. Many days, I find myself lost in one of my office paintings. The picture is of the Riverwalk and it always transports me to the sights, sounds and smells of my hometown.”
You may contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After reading this story if you feel strongly about any Trinity alumni who the Alumni Office should profile in future AlumNet issues, please submit your suggestions. We are looking for suggestions in these four categories: 1) recent grads, 2) grads who innovate, 3) grads in business, and 4) grads who serve the world. Feel free to nominate yourself if you fall in these categories. -- AlumNet Moderator