Washington State Magazine

Fall 2007


Fall 2007

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In This Issue...

Features

It Happened at the World's Fair :: Shortly after Jay Rockey '50 arrived in Seattle to handle the public relations for the 1962 World's Fair, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an editorial claiming it could not see how the fair could possibly make it. &"Do you really know what you're doing?" Rockey's wife asked him. Turns out he did. by Tim Steury
{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Impressions - A gallery of souvenir lithographs commemorating the United States Science Exhibit at the Seattle World's Fair, 1962.}
{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Van Allen belts and other impressions - A meditation on the convergence of science and art, written in 1962 by United States Commissioner Athelstan Spilhaus, for the Seattle World's Fair. }

The Rockey Style :: In spite of nearly universal name recognition and a client list that runs through the Pacific Northwest alphabet, Rockey himself rarely shows up in the press. In this age of Google, it's unnerving to go looking for someone who you know permeates a civic and business culture, and he just isn't there. by Tim Steury

Contagion! Emerging diseases: Unraveling the mystery :: What makes some strains of pathogenic microbes nastier than others? Why do they emerge when and where they do? Are we more susceptible now than in the past, and if so, why? At least partial answers to these troubling questions may lie with snails and salamanders. by Cherie Winner

Food fights :: Four children died in the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. Attorney Bill Marler's client survived, but only after spending six months in the hospital. Marler sued and won a $15.6 million settlement for Brianne Kiner. Even more significant, the work he produced for the case made him an expert not only on E. coli, but on the whole food production system. by Hannelore Sudermann. Photography by Bruce Andre and Robert Hubner

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEVideo: A buzz about bees - In a set of video clips produced exclusively for Washington State Magazine Online, WSU's Steve Sheppard talks about the breeding of honey bees and his work on finding out why honey bee colonies across the country have been disappearing. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Frontline: Pullman - For senior communication major Kate Yeager, playing host to Frontline executive producer David Fanning was the high point of her student career. by Annette Ticknor '07 }

Tracking the Cougars

{ WEB EXCLUSIVEStory: Washington State Magazine wins top honors: Five stories, four issues, and a gold medal from CASE. }

COVER: Jay Rockey '50 poses in front of his Seattle World's Fair press book. Photoillustration by Bruce Andre and John Paxson.

Features
The Rockey Style.

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The Rockey Style. Bruce Andre

Rockey with Gerard Piel, chairman of <em>Scientific American</em, at the Pacific Science Center in the 1980s.

Rockey with Gerard Piel, chairman of Scientific American, at the Pacific Science Center in the 1980s. Pacific Science Center was created during the World's Fair and was Rockey's first client once the fair was over.

Official Press Book for the Seattle World's Fair.

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Official Press Book for the Seattle World's Fair.

Over the years, Jay Rockey (center) has welcomed many WSU interns and hired many graduates.

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Over the years, Jay Rockey (center) has welcomed many WSU interns and hired many graduates. Simmi Singh '00 (right) interned with the Rockey Company and until recently was an account executive with Rockey Hill & Knowlton. Christian Brown '98 is vice president and director of the technology practice at RH&K. Robert Hubner

Jay Rockey '50 is proof that nice guys do not finish last.

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Jay Rockey '50 is proof that nice guys do not finish last. Robert Hubner

It Happened at the World's Fair

by | © Washington State University

Seattle, 1960. The latest census had pushed the city's population over half a million. Labor leader (and former UW regent) Dave Beck was on his way to prison on corruption charges. Otherwise, things were pretty good. Those who knew about Seattle recognized it as sitting in the middle of a glorious natural playground. People had jobs. But Boeing, lucrative as it was, was the only industry in town, and some worried that the city had become complacent. Governor Rosellini thought that Seattle suffered from negativism, "too much inclination to suppress the confidence that lies naturally in many of the people."

But then two things happened, perhaps not quite of equal import. But they were related.

First, the Seattle World's Fair, officially known as Century 21 Exposition, had emerged as a shaky reality, not just a pipe dream.

Second, Jay Rockey returned home to take over as the fair's publicist.

As great an idea as the fair was in hindsight, convincing Seattle that it should, even could, be done was something of a miraculous feat.

Originating at a legendary, and perhaps apocryphal, martini lunch at the Washington Athletic Club in 1955, the idea of a fair soon took the form of a resolution before the city council. Interestingly, as Murray Morgan points out in his lively and idiosyncratic history, Century 21, there was no mention of funding in the proposal, which suggested a 50th-anniversary celebration of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

Fortunately, the idea had legs and made its way to the legislature. Then-governor Langlie signed, with little apparent enthusiasm, a bill calling for a feasibility study. But if he had wished the idea would go away, he made a historic mistake. He appointed longtime friend and UW frat brother Eddie Carlson to chair the committee that would explore the feasibility of a world's fair in Seattle.

Carlson, who would soon become president of the Western Hotel chain, was dogged and bright. Maybe he couldn't walk across Puget Sound, but he had the determination, connections, and charisma to bring the fair to reality, against the odds and in spite of what some saw as a significant part of Seattle's population that was determined to stay small and out of the limelight.

Things proceeded. A commission was formed. Money was designated and eventually raised. A director, Ewen Dingwall, was appointed. Century 21 Exposition became a nonprofit corporation. Seattle was on its way to being presented to the world with a fair that was not only fabulous, but made money for the city and investors.

But maybe that's moving a bit too quickly. What started as a bold vision hit a wall in 1957. A group of civic leaders, including all the members of the Century 21 Corporation, met for a preview of the fair. The preview was indeed impressive. But the estimate for what was proposed came in at $32 million dollars more than had been promised the corporation by the city and state. Their dismay precipitated what Morgan depicted as "great waves of discontent, threatening disaster" during 1959 and 1960.

Let's now return to our second significant event.

Jay Rockey '50 had grown up in Olympia, enlisted in the navy during the last days of World War II, then went off to Washington State College to major in English and journalism, play second-string basketball, and sing in a quartet called the Spectacles.

After graduation, he returned to the navy for the Korean War, then worked for a while for the United Press, covering the state legislature. Next to him sat Jim Faber, with the Associated Press. Eight hours a day, for four months. They got to be good friends.

Through a college friend's father who was regional public relations director for Alcoa, he landed a PR job with Alcoa in Vancouver. There he met Retha Ingraham, and they married. They headed East, where Jay manned Alcoa's New York office. He loved it—the job, the city, everything about it. But after five or six years and three children, he and Retha started thinking about moving back West, where their family was.

One day, Jack Ryan, formerly with the Seattle Times, now working the finance section of the New York Times, called and said there's a press conference you ought to be interested in. Washington governor Albert Rosellini was giving a press conference over the phone. The guy directing the conference from Washington was Jay's old friend, Jim Faber. Rosellini announced that Seattle was going to host an exposition.

"I called [Faber]," says Rockey. "He was actually working for the fair."

A little later, Faber was in New York. Rockey took him to Sardi's, and they talked. Then Rockey flew to Seattle, just to check out the job scene. He had a meeting with Faber at the fair's planning headquarters.

He walked in and asked the receptionist for Faber, but was told Faber had quit the night before. But, she says, let me check with Mr. Dingwall, who invited Rockey into his office.

"Half an hour later they offered me a job," says Rockey. "And I said, 'Are you kidding?' I wanted to work for Boeing or Weyerhaeuser."

But as Rockey left for the airport, Dingwall said, let's keep talking.

That was January 1960. In May, he drove into Seattle with his family, ready to spread the word about Century 21.

Shortly after they arrived, the PI ran an editorial claiming it could not see how the fair could possibly make it. "Do you really know what you're doing?" Retha asked Jay.

Now, from an actual 21st-century perspective, we realize that the fair left Seattle with much more than the Space Needle, the Monorail (at least, the elevated track), and one of Elvis's less-memorable movies. Nearly ten million people visited the fair the summer of 1962. Somehow, Rockey got the fair on the cover of Life. Twice. And on a postage stamp, to boot.

After a six-month run, Seattle found itself discovered. (As a fourth grader in Indiana, I'd have been hard pressed to locate Seattle, until my teacher, Mrs. Kuhn, sent me and my classmates postcards of the Space Needle from the World's Fair.)

In other words, the fair was a fabulous success, and Seattle had joined the ranks of the world's great cities. Jay Rockey, of course, did not do it by himself. But he got everybody to notice.

Categories: Communication, Alumni | Tags: World's fair, Public relations, Seattle

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