Two industry legends, Gene Geiger, MAS+, of Geiger and Chuck Pecher of Skinner and Kennedy Co., were inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame on Monday evening during the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner at the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. The elegantly designed affair, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center ballroom, brought out the industry’s luminaries, dignitaries and leaders to celebrate the achievements of these honorees, and to pay tribute to this year's winner of the Distinguished Service Award, Michele Jennrich, MAS, and the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award winner Daryll Griffin, MAS.
PPAI Chair Dale Denham, MAS+, and President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, emceed the ceremony, which began with silent recognition of those industry members who passed away in 2018.
PPEF Chair Wayne Greenberg, MAS, was then welcomed to the stage to provide an update on the Foundation’s scholarship program.
Next, suppliers Fey Promotional Products and Kellmark Corporation were presented with PPAI’s Milestone Award to celebrate their remarkable 50 years in business. The trophies were accepted by Tom Carpenter, MAS, and by George Kelly and James Jones, respectively. A presentation followed highlighting this year’s class of PPAI Pioneers—a group described as representing the industry’s past and ensuring its future. The honors went to the late Martha Sanders, former president of supplier Sanders Manufacturing Co. and the first female chair of the SAAI Board of Directors, and to the late George Kling, Jr., owner of Potential Profits Group and an icon the incentive industry.
Bellantone stepped on stage to introduce the first award presentation. This year’s winner of the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award was Daryll Griffin, MAS, of Accolades, Inc. who was introduced by one of her nominators, Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS. With humor and amazement, she reeled off Griffin’s many substantial accomplishments over the years including mentoring students at Stephens College and Spelman College, and supporting the Minority & Hispanic Councils of Atlanta and of Georgia, among many others. Amid thundering applause, Griffin’s son, Michael Griffin, joined Sokalski on stage to accept the award for his mother who was unable to make the trip, but the audience was treated to a pre-recorded video acceptance from a grateful Daryll Griffin.
Denham then welcomed Joel Schaffer, MAS, who introduced Michele Jennrich, MAS, of Howard Miller Clocks, as winner of the PPAI Distinguished Service Award. His introduction told the story of a woman whose longtime and dedicated volunteerism is well known across the industry within PPAI and her regional association, Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York, as well as in her local community where she serves schools, her church and many charities. She is also a tireless volunteer for the industry in Washington D.C., having participated for many years in PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day.
Jo-an Lantz, MAS, CEO of Geiger and a past Hall of Famer, introduced the first Hall of Fame inductee. She began by describing how she first met Gene Geiger on September 18, 1978—a day she remembers vividly—and proceeded to describe her relationship with the family company over the decades that followed, along with her admiration and appreciation for Gene Geiger. “I often think of Gene as Jimmy Stewart in A Wonderful Life. Can you imagine what our lives would be like without Gene Geiger?” she asked.
As the audience delivered a standing ovation, Geiger humbly came forward to accept the award. He spoke of his early years when he debated about succeeding his larger-than-life father and joining the 140-plus-year-old family business, and about the highlights and challenges he has faced over the past 45 years. “It was several more years before I came to understand that I had different gifts and skills than my father—which I later realized were, in many ways, more valuable for the company we needed to become,” he said.
Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Pecher was introduced by longtime friend, Mark Gillman, CAS, chairman of Gill Studios. Gillman began by describing the historic industry company into which Pecher was born and the rich history he inherited along with admiration for Pecher’s strong work ethic and skills that helped him nurture and grow the company. In accepting the award Pecher thanked his wife, Trisha, and other family in attendance along with company employees, and also noted that he was the fourth person from one of his family’s companies to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He smiled at the thought. “Tonight, I know that my uncle and his brother and long-time partner, my dad, Bob Pecher, are looking down and saying, ‘Good job kid!’”
The program wrapped up with Denham inviting all Hall of Fame inductees in attendance to the stage to be recognized. Joining him were: Willis Bywater; Bob Davis, CAS; Mark Gilman, CAS; Gene Geiger, MAS+; Wayne Greenberg, MAS; Paul Kiewiet, MAS+; Jo-an Lantz, MAS; Chuck Pecher; Joel Schaffer, MAS; Paul Lage, MAS and David Woods, CAS.