William Ruder, co-founder of Ruder & Finn, one of the world’s largest independent public relations firms, has died. He was 89.
Ruder formed the firm in partnership with David Finn in 1948. According to Finn: “Bill and I were two enterprising young men who had known each other since boyhood. When we were demobilized from the army following the war, we knew we wanted to work for ourselves, but were not quite sure in what capacity. Based on our shared interest in art, we hit upon the idea of aligning the business community with fine arts programs for public relations benefits, forming Art in Industry out of the linen closet of Manhattan’s Lombardy Hotel in 1948.”
After a prominent lawyer introduced the pair to a contact in the entertainment business, Ruder Finn began by promoting the records of artist Perry Como. Later, when business contacts required communications programs to address corporate or business challenges, the firm developed campaigns in multiple industries including healthcare, technology, engineering and environmental programming.
“Bill’s business development drive complemented my creativity wonderfully,” says Finn. “Our friendship remained at the heart of the agency’s growth for the next 30 years and he remained an active member of the board until his last days.
“As a colleague, I knew Bill as a consummate businessman, with the ability to shake every hand in the room without making anyone feel slighted. As a friend, I knew him as an Eagle Scout and an incredibly passionate advocate for ideas and truth. His wisdom and insight will always be cherished.”
He also served the federal government as assistant secretary of commerce under President Kennedy. He initiated the Department of Commerce Business Ethics Advisory Council, a group of businessmen, philosophers and academicians joined together to encourage the highest standards of ethical performance in business.
Ruder served on several boards of directors, including the United Nations Association of the United States of America, the Business Committee for the Arts, the American Jewish Committee, Manhattanville College, the American Woman’s Economic Development Corporation, Fund for Peace, the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Task Force for Democracy, and the Council on Economic Priorities.
Ruder is the father of five children who were raised in Harrison, NY.