Founders, family, directors and staff gathered at Public Citizen’s headquarters on Tuesday to honor one of their own.  Aileen Walsh, winner of Public Citizen’s ninth annual Phyllis McCarthy Public Interest Award, received praise from speaker after speaker including Ralph Nader, Sydney Wolfe, President Robert Weissman, former President Joan Claybrook, Jackie Gillan and Judy Stone, both of whom are from the organization Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The common theme among the speakers was Aileen’s perpetual
good mood and multitude of roles that she functioned as within the organization
– therapist, social director, event planner (the staff couldn’t keep her away
from setting up for her own event), successful fundraiser, and her and her willingness to do any job – as long as it was done right.

Public Citizen created the award after Phyllis McCarthy passed away in November 2002. McCarthy began her career in 1978 with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, and helped pioneer the development of every health publication now produced by Public Citizen.  The award recognizes individuals who have worked for a public interest group for many years, performing critical functions as did McCarthy, but who have not received public credit for their contributions.

Aileen Walsh (maiden name Coyne), a Pittsburgh native, is the first award-winner who has worked with McCarthy. She joined Public Citizen in July 1993 as the executive assistant to then-President Joan Claybrook and continues to take on many roles at the organization.

Walsh assists the president, board members and the directors in scheduling conferences calls, making travel arrangements and setting up meetings.  Her success at dialing for dollars is legendary, as nearly every speaker mentioned he ability to get a donation out of anyone she calls.

Around the organization,
her nickname is “queen mother.”

“With her high energy, good spirit, sense of humor, experience, wisdom, commitment, passion, insight, intelligence, wit, common sense and sense of fun, Aileen Walsh keeps a very intense staff functioning, effective and happy,” Weissman said. “There’s no royalty at Public Citizen, but we make an exception for our Queen, Aileen Walsh.”

“It was so great to see such a big turnout – and seeing all my friends from over the years was so nice, and Jackie and Judy showing up was such a wonderful surprise,” said Walsh.  “I didn’t expect this award and I am still in shock from Tuesday night.”


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