Ivan Preston


Ivan Preston, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, passed away last week

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Ivan Preston, professor emeritus at University of Wisconsin, former FTC consultant on advertising issues, attendee at the first (and almost all) Marketing and Public Policy conferences, died earlier this week due to complications from ALS.


Jef Richards of Michigan State University recently posted this notice on a discussion line for advertising educators following news. "Ivan was fine last Summer in Italy [for an AAA conference], other than having problems with his back. About 3 – 4 weeks ago he called Herb Rotfeld and me, on a conference call, to tell us he’d been diagnosed the day before as having ALS. He was in good spirits. He sounded fine. He didn’t yet have a full prognosis. A few days later he told us that he was given 2 – 3 years. But then his health took a very quick turn for the worse. His speech became a bit slurred, he had trouble controlling his extremities, and he was having some mental lapses. I’ve spoken with him 2 or 3 times since then, and it clearly was getting worse. About a week and a half ago I spoke with him and asked how he was handling all of this, emotionally, and he was quite upbeat and said he was handling it just fine. Then he went on to talk about maybe hiring someone to do his taxes this year, in case he couldn’t handle it himself. He talked about going to the AAA Conference in Mesa, in April. As of last Friday — my last conversation with him — he was still talking about registering for the Mesa conference. His speech was getting weaker, though, and his daughter had to dial the phone for him."

Yesterday, this note was sent to all members of the American Academy of Advertising, signed by me as president of the organization:

Before Ivan left the stage, the AAA leadership received a short message from one of the members proposing that we name our existing prestigious award for distinguished research accomplishment after Ivan Preston. The proposal was in the process of generating support of all living past recipients of the honor (which was eventually received), and the Executive Committee started to vote earlier this week. So while I am saddened that Ivan did not live long enough to hear this news, the Executive Committee has agreed that henceforth it will be the Ivan L. Preston Outstanding Contribution to Research Award.

Naming an award after someone who exemplifies the merit and values of the award itself is a well established practice and Ivan has been one of our most honored members: one of the first members to receive this award in 1992, one of the first recipients of the Kim Rotzoll Award for Advertising Ethics and Social Responsibility, plus elected President and a Fellow of the Academy. At one time there was a hope that Ivan would be able to join us for our conference in Mesa, but he was recently diagnosed with ALS and had been deteriorating. For several years, every time he published yet another "last paper" or someone cited his work, he would mention his belief that his history of accomplishments would soon be forgotten. I always told him he was wrong, and I know that many members of AAA agree with me.