Lee Cherenson, the founder of what today is Whippany-based SCG Advertising + Public Relations, died Sept. 25. He was 94.
Born in Boston and raised in Lowell, Mass., Cherenson graduated from Boston University in 1951 as a member of the initial cohort of students to complete the first U.S. bachelor’s degree program in public relations.
Following his deployment to Korea with the U.S. Eighth Army, Cherenson relocated to New Jersey, where he met and then in 1955 married his wife, Connie.
In 1958, he founded the public relations and advertising agency Cherenson, Caroll and Holzer, which later became The Cherenson Group and today is SCG.
In an interview with Boston University, Cherenson reflected on his path to PR, which he embarked upon after working at several newspapers, including the Star-Ledger. “I was eager to get into public relations, so I did some freelance PR work on the side until I had enough freelance business to leave the newspaper,” he told BU.
Assisted by Connie, and their son’s babysitter, the business was originally based in the family garage.
“Most of our original clients were in the real estate business, and we also did work for the New Jersey Dental Society,” Cherenson told BU. “I took on partners as the agency continued to progress and evolve with our family. Over the years, all four of our children spent time working at the firm, and our son Michael [now executive vice president of SCG] joined full time in 1990 after graduating college.”
Reflecting on his work, Cherenson said that, “A firm can only be as good as its clients allow it to be, and we had many that allowed us to do great work. I think fondly about working with some of New Jersey’s early corporate leaders, including Prudential Financial and the construction company Hovnanian Enterprises, along with a long list of banks and financial institutions. Helping US Home Corp., which today is Lennar Corp., grow from an idea presented on a napkin at Seymour’s Luncheonette in Livingston, N.J., to one of the biggest builders in the world is certainly a highlight as well. In the end, it’s not the media clips I remember, it’s the people.”
Cherenson and his wife were also very involved in Livingston Youth Services, helping to develop a curriculum on interpersonal communication and behavior modification, which was shared with Livingston Public Schools educators via workshops. He also served on several boards, including Livingston’s Big L Booster Cub and The Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest.
Cherenson retired in 2006.
“Our hearts are heavy today as I share the news of the passing of my father, Lee. He lived a long, fulfilling life (94 years), and we’re all grateful for the time we had together,” Michael Cherenson wrote in a LinkedIn post. “My father was my biggest supporter and my role model. He taught me the importance of empathy, service, kindness, goodness, wonder, curiosity, hard work, and perseverance. He was always there for me – for so many of us – no matter what. I know I speak for his family and friends in saying he’ll be missed more than words can express. But, he’s a gift that will continue to give.”
He’s survived by his sons, Robert and Michael; his daughter, Linda; daughter-in-law Lisa; son-in-law John; grandchildren Rachel, Ryan (husband of Cassidy), Cole, Samantha, Alexandra, Steven, and Chris; and great-grandchildren Evie and Kalea. He was pre-deceased by his wife and by his son, Steven.
In lieu of flowers or food, the family requests that mourners do a good deed in Lee Cherenson’s memory.