Psychoanalyst & Public Relations Executive
2008 Alumni Achievement Award Winner
From pioneering business executive, public relations entrepreneur, and
lecturer to psychoanalyst, Richard Cheney '43's career choices illustrate how
a successful liberal arts education open doors to careers that expand far beyond a student's major.
Cheney graduated from Knox with a history major and went on to earn a master of arts in English from Columbia University. He spent most of his career at Hill and Knowlton, Inc., an international public relations firm, serving as senior vice chairman from 1980 to 1987 and as chairman from 1987 until 1991. He was one of the first public relations executives to focus on business takeovers, working with Walt Disney Productions, The Continental Group, Getty Oil Company, and BF Goodrich Company, among many others. Cheney was the first to apply the term "Saturday Night Special" to sudden, short-fuse, takeover cash offers.
He led the way in environmental public relations, working with Richard Merrill when thalidomide was found to be toxic and with B. F. Goodrich when polyvinyl chloride was implicated in angina sarcoma deaths of employees. These unique public relations activities took place prior to environmental inspections and safety recommendations set forth by the government in the 1970s and 1980s.
In addition to his work in the corporate world, Cheney taught financial public relations at New York University and the New School of Social Research in New York City. He also lectured on financial relations topics to various boards and associations and participated in seminars held by Harvard Business School, The Sorbonne, Fortune magazine, and the American Bar Association.
He was responsible for investor relations at Mobil, where he developed a training course on oil industry operations and economics for beginning security analysts. This was the first such course ever provided for the investment community.
After retiring in 1991, he embarked on another career as a licensed psychoanalyst, opening a private practice in New York City. Ned Landon '43, said of Cheney when he was awarded an Alumni Achievement Award in 2008 for his achievements in public relations and psychotherapy, "to me, perhaps the most important reason for honoring Dick Cheney has been his approach to retirement and so-called 'senior citizenship.' Rather than rest on his laurels ... Dick Cheney has turned a longtime personal interest in the working of the human mind into a personal pursuit of training and knowledge that helps others to better understand themselves ... proving again the kind of vigor, thoughtfulness, and integrity he had shown, early on, as a bright young man on the Knox College campus."