Marilyn Laurie made an indelible impression on me as the strong, passionate leader of AT&T Public Relations. The tumultuous years of the late 80s and 90s were marked by heady highs and humbling lows for AT&T. For much of that time, while Marilyn was adroitly running the company's vast, worldwide public relations organization, I was serving as AT&T's chief spokesperson.

For me as head of media relations, Marilyn was the right executive to have in my corner and in the corner office: she was whip smart and decisive, had rock solid judgment, was generous with information, focused on the big picture, and knew when to run interference between the occasionally over-reacting C-suite and her team on the front lines.

I was enormously fortunate to have Marilyn as a mentor and role model for such a major chunk of my doing, learning and growing years in AT&T PR. Not only was she a bright, confident, pioneering woman leader, she was also a great coach and teacher about strategic communications, issues management and the power of brands.

Marilyn was a truly authentic and inspiring individual. She certainly packed a maximum amount of energy, intellectual curiosity and presence into a petite package. Marilyn could debate in her rapid-fire New York style with the best of the big boys, wow a crowd of any kind on any day of the week, and connect easily one-on-one with people from all walks of life, thanks to her fierce focus and genuine smile.

I remember the dozen peach roses Marilyn once sent to my home after a particularly grueling week, and the corny little brass bell she used to ring in the halls to recognize a big win for the PR team. Today I know I am joined by dozens of former colleagues offering big bouquets of peach roses and lots of loud bell ringing in celebration of Marilyn.