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Cynthia Upson, Leading CE PR Exec, Dies

Arlington, Va. — Cynthia Saraniti Upson, longtime employee, consultant and friend to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA),passed away Saturday, Feb. 17, following a battle with lung cancer. She was 49.

Upson joined CEA’s communications department in 1985 and was promoted to VP in 1991. She served in that role, which included marketing for International CES, until 1998 whereupon she moved to Richmond when her husband Don became the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Secretary of Technology. She continued as a consultant to CEA, the trade group reported.

Upson helped launch some of CEA’s most successful public relations campaigns and was widely recognized throughout the consumer electronics industry for her intelligence, creativity, warmth and passion for the industry.

“The CEA family has lost one of its brightest stars,” said CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro. “Cynthia’s enthusiasm and passion for our industry, indeed for life itself, was contagious and inspirational. Her list of contributions to our industry are many – she helped turn the concept of home theater into household words, she played a key role in making digital television a marketplace success and she helped make the International CES a ‘must cover’ event for news media around the world. More, Cynthia was a true friend to me, to our staff and to many throughout the industry. There are no words to express how much all of us will miss her trademark laugh, her friendship and her counsel. Our hearts are with her family, especially her husband Don and daughter Sarah.”

Upson’s involvement in the consumer electronics industry spanned more than 20 years. She began her tenure with CEA in 1985 serving on the association’s communications staff. Cynthia was named communications and strategic relationships VP in 1991 where she led the development of award-winning public relations campaigns in support of industry initiatives on the V-chip, portable audio, home theater, mobile electronics and more.

Upson helped launch several CEA publications, including Vision magazine and the HDTV Guide. Upson also was a founding member of the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers. In January 1999 Upson received TWICE’s Distinguished Achievement Award and in 2006, she received the DTV Academy Award for Outstanding Service.

(See “We All Loved ‘Cyn’” in Viewpoints.)

“Cynthia was a public relations expert and a passionate and diplomatic strategist,” said Shapiro. “She always came up with creative ideas and solutions to complex challenges. She was loved by the media and highly respected among her PR peers. Personally, her guidance and advice were invaluable.”

Upson applied her professional skills and personal passion to her clients and a broad range of charitable, artistic and political organizations, including the Lung Cancer Alliance, the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Other industry leaders joined Shapiro in expressing condolences:

“Cynthia was one of a kind: the consummate public relations professional, passionate industry advocate, and a very good friend and mentor to so many of us who grew up together in the consumer electronics industry,” said John Taylor, LG Electronics USA VP, who had known her for many years. “We will miss her infectious laughter, rock-solid integrity and her loyal friendship.”

Thiel president and former CEA chairman Kathy Gornik said, “Cynthia is one of the most beautiful people you could know. She radiated happiness and good will, and her laughter still rings in my ears. Cynthia helped my start-up company when we first joined CEA by providing great suggestions for developing good media relations that we use to this day. My most sincere condolences to her family and everyone at CEA who knew and loved her.”

“Cynthia was a friend and a mentor to many at CEA and throughout the industry,” said Karen Chupka, events and conferences senior VP for CEA. “Her energy and her creativity touched everyone and made every moment a celebration of life.”

“Cynthia’s courageous battle with cancer was fought with the same determination and vigor that she used to heighten public awareness of the consumer electronics industry. The long hours Cynthia devoted to promoting our products and services to the national media, will be very hard to replace — particularly because she was so good at it. But what we’ll miss most about Cynthia is her laughter — long, loud, rich and inviting. She was everyone’s advocate, and a trusted friend to so many. Our industry and our own lives are made richer by her life,” said Dave Arland, VP of Thomson (RCA).

In memory of Cynthia Upson, contributions can be made to the Lung Cancer Alliance,