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Roland Minda, award-winning public relations giant, dies at 96

25 March 2022

With his gentle disposition, command of the English language and unending ingenuity, Roland Minda ascended to the top of the Twin Cities public relations industry.

As owner and president of Minda Associates, his clients ranged from First Bank (now U.S. Bank) to Benson Optical to Fed Ex to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. During his career spanning the 1960s to the late 1990s, he devised campaigns to institute liquor on Sunday in Minnesota and keep the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from moving to Ham Lake, said his wife of 44 years, Merle, of Minneapolis.

In one of his most clever initiatives in the 1970s, Minda engineered a letter-writing campaign that helped get Rep. Bill Frenzel elected to Congress.

“He wrote beautifully,” said Merle, who joined her husband at his firm after they married. “He had ideas and they worked.”

Roland Minda died March 14 at the Minneapolis Veterans Home near Minnehaha Park. He was 96.

Minda graduated from Minneapolis West High School then ran a court-martial service for the Army during World War II while stationed in the South Pacific. He earned a degree from the Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs in 1950.

Minda sold magazine ads, taught dancing at an Arthur Murray studio and ran a hot dog stand in Chicago before venturing into his long career in public relations, his wife said.

He opened an office in the Midland Bank building in downtown Minneapolis, and built relationships with myriad clients, many who stayed with him long term.

“He had that incredible insight to find the right little angle. He understood the customer and the marketing goals,” said Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who worked with Minda when she was at First Bank and called on him for advertising help many times after taking jobs in Miami, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. “He was a key component of my business success.”

His catchy campaigns led to many accolades, including being the first winner of the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s Donald Padilla Award given for volunteering and improving the community through communications. He was also a WCCO Radio “Good Neighbor.”

Minda left his mark on those who worked for him, too. Kitty Shea worked for Minda for two years before branching out as a freelance writer at age 24.

“Roland was a classic mentor in a quiet steadfast way,” she said. “When he spoke, the whole room got quiet. He knew what he was doing.”

Others like Josh Kohnstamm worked under Minda’s tutelage before he started his own public relations firm, Kohnstamm Communications.

“He took me under his wing,” Kohnstamm said. “He was so unflappable and positive. He never got upset over deadlines and presentations. He was a joy to work with.”

Minda sold his firm in 1998 and started a TV show called “Strictly Seniors,” which ran for 11 years on the Metro Cable Network. His guests included Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Star Tribune columnist Barbara Flanagan, and scores of health, business and theater personalities, even yoga teachers.

“Nobody ever said no to him,” Merle said.

Minda served on the Hennepin County Humane Society board for 40 years and was president twice. His also was on the boards of the Minneapolis Rotary, Temple Israel, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, American Red Cross, Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, and the Metropolitan YMCA.

Minda loved history, was a voracious reader, liked to travel, and “never missed a manicure appointment,” said Kohnstamm. “He was the classic PR person of the ’60s and ’70s, relationship-based, a very funny guy and very grounded.”

Services have been held.

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