Harold C. “Chuck” Donofrio Jr., an innovative advertising executive and former chief executive officer of Carton Donofrio Partners Inc. who was also an avid bird-watcher, died Sunday of Alzheimer’s disease at Arden Courts in Towson.
The Glen Arm resident was 62.
“Unlike a lot of leaders in business, Chuck was not motivated by greed or ego. It was the intellectual pursuit, and the bigger the intellectual pursuit, the better it was for him,” said Rosemary Ostmann, founder, president and CEO of RoseComm, a Hoboken, N.J., communications firm.
“He was not about hierarchy or titles; he was all about collaboration. He was not insecure,” said Ms. Ostmann, who lives in Maplewood, N.J., and formerly worked with Mr. Donofrio. “He gave his employees every opportunity to rise to the level of their abilities, which made his company a fascinating place to be.”
The son of Harold C. “Hal” Donofrio Sr., a Baltimore advertising executive, and Nancy Donofrio, a homemaker, Harold Charles Donofrio Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in Timonium.
He was a 1973 graduate of St. Paul’s School and was a cum laude graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977 in English literature.
He then attended graduate school at the University of Montana, where he had a teaching assistantship for a year, before becoming a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. He launched his advertising career when he joined Cole & Webster, a subsidiary of Ogilvy & Mather in Seattle, where he was assigned to the Westin Hotels account.
Mr. Donofrio then moved to New York City and joined Young & Rubicam, where he worked on the General Foods International Coffees account and related Maxwell House new products, the United Negro College Fund, and Eastern Airlines.
In 1983, he returned to Baltimore and went to work for Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, the marketing communications firm that his father had established in 1964.
He ultimately took over the agency as chief executive officer in 1993, and under his leadership, the “agency was among the first in the region to embrace digital media, pioneering online advertising in the higher-education sector and developing early social media concepts,” wrote Ms. Ostmann in a biographical profile of Mr. Donofrio.
“In 1995, RM&D was the only large Baltimore agency with a website, and Chuck shared a prediction with his staff: ‘The Internet will have more of an impact on our industry than anything else in my lifetime. We’re jumping on the wave and we’re riding it hard,’ ” she wrote.
“Chuck really was a visionary and absolutely ahead of all trends in the advertising-marketing industry. He was in sync with so many things and brought a lot of passion to his work,” Ms. Ostmann said in an interview.
From 1995 to 2001, the company doubled its revenue, at which time Mr. Donofrio led the firm’s transition into Carton Donofrio Partners Inc., a “brand experience design firm specializing in advertising, public relations, interactive media, anthropological research, brand consulting and customer experience management,” Ms.Ostmann wrote.
The agency’s list of clients included Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., T. Rowe Price, Sylvan Learning Centers, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Calvert Investments, the American Institute of Architects, the National Association of Realtors, University of Maryland University College, Black & Decker Corp., Prince Tennis Racquets, Walden University, EverBank, Visit Baltimore and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
In 2011, Mr. Donofrio was presented a Silver Medal Award by the Advertising Agency Federation of Baltimore for making significant contributions to the advertising industry and furthering its standards.
Mr. Donofrio was a willing listener and mentor who enjoyed talking about the advertising world to anyone who was interested and sought an interview, even if it meant he had to come to work early or stay late.
“He encouraged me to start my own business. I remember he took the train to New York and took me out to dinner,” Ms. Ostmann said. “He wanted me to be an entrepreneur, and I owe all of my success to him.”
Mr. Donofrio stepped down in 2010 as CEO after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
He created a blog in 2009 that he called “Early Onset Alzheimer’s Adventure,” and continued blogging until 2011.
His firm, which had a satellite office in Philadelphia, closed in 2013.
Mr. Donofrio had served as president of the board of St. Paul’s School for Girls and a member of the board and executive committee of Goucher College. He also had been a member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ agency management committee.
A member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Mr. Donofrio had recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety.
He enjoyed writing poetry and was an avid bird-watcher and outdoorsman who often kept his hiking shoes in his workbag in case he stumbled upon a trailhead he wanted to explore, even during business trips.
“He also considered a good set of binoculars to be among his most important possessions,” Ms. Ostmann wrote.
“It wasn’t uncommon for Chuck when he was either driving or riding in a car to suddenly pull over to observe a bird he had spotted,” Ms. Ostmann said.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6 in the Vollmer Center at Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave.
Mr. Donofrio is survived by his wife of 28 years, the former Deb Brilhart; three daughters, Lucy Donofrio of Federal Hill, Clare Donofrio of Remington and Ellen Delaplane of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; his father and stepmother, Sherri Thompson of Ruxton; and a brother, Malcolm “Mac” Donofrio of Missoula, Mont.