I first met Kathy in 2010, when she was invited to speak at the annual Frederick S. Siebert Lecture put on by Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. I was serving as the college’s alumni relations coordinator, so it was my job to serve as the point person for our esteemed alumni guests and handle event logistics. At that time, Kathy was “Ms. Hoffman” to me.
I remember sitting in that lecture hall and listening to Kathy, the head of AP’s Lansing Bureau at the time, and Don Gonyea, National Public Radio correspondent, tell tales of covering politics and campaigns over the years. I sat in awe of all they had accomplished. That day sparked something in me: I loved my job at the college, but I wanted a career like Kathy’s — one that might someday lead me back to MSU as a guest speaker.
Fast forward many years, and I was on maternity leave with my first daughter after working only a few months at Martin Waymire. I got a call one evening from Dave and Roger letting me know they were bringing on a new senior hire — and it was a name I recognized immediately. I would soon be working with THE Kathy Barks Hoffman.
Over the past eight years, Kathy has become a close friend and mentor to me and many other MW team members. She’s been a steady leader for the company as we’ve navigated highs and lows, incoming and departing team members, difficult political times and a global pandemic. She’s advocated for improvements to our company culture, like offering fully paid, 12-week maternity and medical leave (I benefitted from this with my second child). She’s championed our diversity, racial equity and inclusion efforts — work that always will be ongoing for us as a company.
Kathy also has done so much to make Michigan a better place on behalf of our clients. She’s worked with the Michigan Retailers Association to encourage more people to buy nearby. She’s elevated the important contributions of Michigan’s University Research Corridor, an alliance of the state’s three leading research institutions — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. She’s served as strategic council for Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, the largest producer of polysilicon in the U.S., helping to strengthen the company’s internal and external communications in the Great Lakes Bay Region. She’s won countless local and regional public relations awards for these clients and others over the years.
Kathy has a long and storied journalism career, which we’ve talked about on the blog here and here. She’s a member of two journalism halls of fame. And if Martin Waymire had its own hall of fame, she would certainly have been inducted into it years ago. We are a better company and Michigan is a better place thanks to Kathy’s efforts.
Kathy officially retires on July 1. She and her husband Brent plan on sailing off into the sunset on their boat, “Comes A Time,” among other adventures. They’ll be spending lots of time with their families, especially their two grandsons. But Kathy won’t be a stranger — she’ll be staying on part-time as a senior consultant for MW, assisting with writing and strategy for a few key clients.
We’re so proud that THE Kathy Barks Hoffman chose MW as her professional home for the past eight years. You’ve set the high standard for all of us to aspire to in our careers, and we hope to do you proud.