Celebrating the Exceptional
For more than 40 years PPAI has honored the people whose contributions, influence, guidance, inspiration and hard work have built a powerhouse of an industry. Without these individuals, the industry surely would not exist as it does today.
This month, at The PPAI Expo 2019 in Las Vegas, PPAI will celebrate four industry icons with its highest awards. Gene Geiger, MAS+ and Chuck Pecher will be inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame while Daryll Griffin, MAS, receives the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award and Michele Jennrich, MAS, is honored with the Distinguished Service Award. Turn the page to read about their accomplishments and contributions.
In His Genes
Gene Geiger, MAS+, has always put the success of his family’s heirloom first and foremost.
Those born into family businesses inherit a unique set of expectations, obligations and opportunities. For Gene Geiger, MAS+, the oldest son of the late legendary Raymond A. Geiger, and the fourth generation to lead Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger, the opportunity to join the company 45 years ago resulted in unmatched industry connections, countless ways to contribute to the industry and his community, and inspired his purpose to leave the company even stronger than he found it.
When Geiger is inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame during The PPAI Expo this month in Las Vegas, he’ll be the third family member to be inducted, following his father in 1977 and his grandfather, Frank A. Geiger (posthumously) in 2004.
The company was first established in 1878 in New Jersey by Geiger’s great-grandfather Jacob and his great-great uncle, Andrew, and relocated to Lewiston in 1955. Today the business is in the top echelon of distributors as the largest family-owned and family-managed, non-private-equity-owned distributor with sales nearing $200 million and 400 employees, plus 300 independent contractors who are associated with the company. It also maintains a close-knit family culture and is one of the most respected companies in the industry.
Initially joining him in the family business were his brothers Peter, Michael and K.C., the latter two who departed to other businesses after a few years. He also has a sister, Barbara, who isn’t involved in the company, but Peter has had a long and illustrious career at Geiger as editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, which the company has published since 1935.
“When a business has existed for as long as Geiger has, it goes from being a business to being a family heirloom,” says the soft-spoken Geiger who, as a young man, struggled with his career direction before joining the company in 1973.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame, Geiger took a year off to backpack around the world. Along the way, he fell in love with Japan and spent nine months there teaching English. He was considering a longer stay when he received a letter from his mother telling him his father needed him in the business. “I was torn between my desire to do something else and my obligation to come into the company as my father was getting older,” he says. Geiger spent six months deciding what to do but ultimately his obligation to the family business won out. Still, he admits it took several years before he was comfortable with his decision, and sometimes he still wonders what would have happened if he’d stayed in Japan.
Part of Geiger’s reluctance, he says, was that he was set to follow his father—a larger-than-life figure. “He was amazing in terms of his charisma and his ability to do things,” Geiger says proudly about his dad, who stayed active in the company until his death in 1994 at 83 years old.
The elder Geiger was deeply involved in community service and fundraising events, believing passionately in giving back to the places from which he had derived success. Among his jaw-dropping accomplishments was getting legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite to come to Lewiston to raise money for a charity event. He also arranged a ride on the Goodyear blimp for his wife, Ann, and himself to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
Incredibly affable and self-assured, he appeared on numerous radio and TV programs, including Late Night with David Letterman, Art Linkletter’s House Party, The Mike Douglas Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. “He never took no for an answer. That’s the kind of father I had,” says Geiger. “So, my challenge was what could possibly I do to come close to a father who was a giant in our community, our state, our industry? How does one follow an act like that?”
While Geiger’s father set a fine leadership example for his son, this year’s Hall of Fame inductee also credits many nonfamily members with helping to guide him. Among them is George Liming, who was his father’s right-hand man. Geiger says Liming was, using today’s terminology, the CFO, but he was more than that. “Extraordinarily competent, decent and loyal, he really ran our company while my father was its face and soul. George had the skills to run a company 100 times our size. On paper he reported to me, but he was my teacher and my mentor. I’ve never met a finer person.”
From left, the young executive, circa 1978; Gene Geiger was influenced early in life to attend Notre Dame, and he graduated from the university in 1971; and joking around with longtime co-worker, Jo-an Lantz, MAS.
On the company’s board until his death in 2013, Liming was the bridge from the third- to fourth-generation leaders. “He was essentially a family member who dedicated his work life to nurture the business and make sure it continued for the generations ahead,” Geiger says thoughtfully.
He is also proud to include other nonfamily members in the family circle, including Dale Denham, MAS+, the company’s chief information officer and PPAI’s board chair, and Jo-an Lantz, MAS, former PPAI board chair and Hall of Fame member, who nominated Geiger for the Hall of Fame honor. She also assumed the role of company president this month and is set to succeed Geiger as CEO when he retires sometime this year. Lantz has been with the distributor for 40 years and is the first nonfamily member to become president. “She’s superbly capable,” he says. “She’s earned everything she’s achieved.”
The stage is set for the fifth Geiger generation. Sons Jeff and David work for the company now—Jeff as business development manager and David, just out of law school, as general counsel. “My wish is for them to be happy and to do work that is fulfilling whether inside the company or out,” he says. “It is satisfying to envision that ours will continue as a family business well beyond me.”
The dedication and hard work that’s required to keep a business going over generations is something Geiger knows well. Over his long career in the industry, Geiger has also given back to the industry that’s given his family so much as a member of numerous PPAI committees, three terms on the PPAI board of directors, and as chair of the Product Responsibility Advisory Group (PRAG) since it was established in 2010. Over the same period, he and Rick Brenner, MAS+, served as co-chairs of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit.
In 1994, he was named Counselor magazine’s Person of the Year, received PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award in 2001, and was honored by ASI in 2018 with the Marvin Spike Lifetime Achievement Award.
Over the years he and his brother, Peter, have been involved in countless local civic and charitable organizations. They recently supported a major building project for New Beginnings, the only homeless shelter for teens in Maine licensed to provide 24-hour care. The headquarters building is now called the Ann Geiger Center in honor of their mother. They were also lead supporters for a similar building project for Tree Free Youth, an inner city, after-school, drop-in center. It is now named The Geiger Center For Leadership And Learning.
“His dedication to the promotional products industry has spanned his entire business career,” wrote Lantz in her nomination of Geiger. “He continues to serve selflessly, is lowkey about his accomplishments and quick to give credit to others. He has been a mentor to me and so many others.” Her nomination was supported by 13 peers—all former Hall of Fame members themselves.
Looking back over the past four decades, Geiger speaks humbly about his part in the company’s accomplishments and says he’s proud to have helped grow a first-rate organization, one which has also given so much back to the industry. “I believe no company has and has had as many people volunteering at the regional and national level as we do,” he says. “There are few regional associations that have not had a Geiger person on their board or involved in their activities. And untold Geiger people give back to their communities in one form or another. In every place we operate, we are good corporate citizens.”
He says he’s also proud that he’s been able to pick up the company from his father, and expand it in terms of size and improved capability, and navigate it through difficult times. Since its founding 140 years ago, the distributor has gone through numerous recessions, the Great Depression, two world wars and multiple economic shifts that would test any business. His most difficult challenge was the recent closing of the company’s manufacturing arm, Sun Graphix, in 2013. The factory, which had been in place since the company’s founding, manufactured calendars, datebooks, planners and the Farmers’ Almanac and employed 250 people, but the advent of personal computers and smartphones had lessened the demand for some of those products.
“We were losing money and it was extremely difficult to make the decision to shut that business down,” he recalls. “If we had been purely focused on money, we would have sold off the business a decade earlier, but we delayed the inevitable out of loyalty to the people who worked there—some for 30 or 40 years.”
Left, Geiger as his alter ego, the Geigernator, during a Geiger event; and Geiger with sons, from left, David and Jeff.
After confronting that inevitable decision and many nights of sleepless anticipation, Geiger announced the closing at an all-hands meeting. To his surprise, after learning the news, the employees gave him a standing ovation rather than being angry. Because everyone had been kept informed of the challenges, they were not surprised and understood he had done his best to keep things going. A couple dozen employees found new jobs within the Geiger organization, and virtually all the others were helped with severance, counseling, resume writing and job fairs to help them land on their feet elsewhere. After 135 years of making products, the layoffs were the most difficult and sad task he says he’s ever faced. But the caring and respectful way it was handled is further testimony to the remarkable Geiger culture.
When asked what the Hall of Fame induction means to him, he pauses for several minutes before answering. “It signifies that, in addition to being a reasonably successful businessperson, I’ve done things for our industry and for my community that have been worthy of note. It’s satisfying to think that I’ve done a reasonably good job of doing more than earning a living.”
Despite Geiger’s significant success in driving the company forward, at 69 years old, he realizes it’s time to depart. “If I were to stay in place, the business would not adapt or grow as fast as it needs to,” he says. It is also essential to offer opportunities for others to elevate. “Talented people need to feel they can contribute at the highest levels, or they will go elsewhere. It is time for our company to be rethought and refreshed. I’m turning over the reins to a great team, but I’ll keep my hand in as board chair.”
What’s next is still up in the air. Given Geiger’s love of learning, he says he would like to become conversational in Japanese and to live in other places—Alaska, Texas, Colorado or even Japan—for months at a time. Whatever he chooses, he says he’s ready to do something else. It’s time for his life to come full circle.
Tina Berres Filipski is editor of PPB.
A Collective Win
Hall of Fame inductee Charles “Chuck” Pecher attributes his success to a strong team, both inside and outside of his business.
If it weren’t for Charles “Chuck” Pecher, PPAI wouldn’t be what it is today. Pecher, who is the president of St. Louis, Missouri-based supplier Skinner & Kennedy Co.—his promotional products business where he’s worked for the past 43 years—played a pivotal role in the rebranding of PPAI from its former name, Specialty Advertising Association International, in 1993; a change that encouraged other regional associations to later follow suit.
Pecher’s list of achievements with PPAI alone—he’s been involved with the Association since 1992—is impressive. As chair of the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), he helped create the foundation’s first major fundraising program. He was also recognized with PPAI’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and was named a PPAI Fellow in 2016. He has served on several industry boards, including then-St. Louis Specialty Advertising Association (SLASA, now Promotional Products Association Mid-South), 1975-1980 as a board member, show chairman and president; The Calendar Advertising Council, 1985-1990, chairman in 1990; Printing Industries of St. Louis, Inc., 2005-2010, chairman from 2009-2010; Printing Industries of St. Louis Service Corporation 2004-2009, chairman from 2009-2010; Printing Industries of America, 2002-2005; and is board chairman of The Master Printers of America.
Pecher owns and operates a company that is more than 100 years old—Skinner & Kennedy Co. was founded in 1900—that is particularly known for its calendars, as well as its promotional fans, donut boxes, desk pads, notepads, planners, coasters and password books, all of which are 100 percent manufactured and sold in the United States. But even with all these obligations, Pecher still finds time for the little things, like sending each of his six grandchildren a book in the mail, every month. “When I visit my grandchildren, being able to read with them is neat,” he says.
Pecher's school photo from St. Catherine's of Sienna, 1956. "My dad would always tell me that I looked like a '57 Chevy with its doors open," Pecher says; Pecher and his five sisters, circa 1964. Top, from left, Mary Lou, Chuck and Kathleen. Bottom, from left, Barbara, June and Patti; and Pecher's senior football photo from Hanover College in 1972.
It would seem like Pecher is scrambling to find time, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. When asked about how he attends to both his company and the associations he’s involved with, he says, “I never found it a burden. It took time, but it was part of the job.” Pecher learned early on from his father Robert John Pecher, the former CEO of Skinner & Kennedy Co., who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps, that there was only one way of conducting business. “You just need to remain calm, identify issues and work with the people that you have to come up with solutions,” he says. This entails allowing employees to make decisions independently instead of making decisions for them. “If you have people that are given the tools they need, they usually make good decisions. Not always, but usually.
Phillip Carney, MAS, the former vice president of sales for Fenton, Missouri-based supplier Quickpoint, and a former PPAI board member that was elected a PPAI Fellow in 2016, nominated Pecher for PPAI’s HOF. Carney summarized Pecher’s unwavering commitment to the industry: “Nationally, Chuck is everywhere. While he was on the PPAI Board of Directors, he worked on countless taskforce groups and was the board liaison to different committees. When he finished his board service, he continued to support PPAI and PPEF through exhibiting, donations and mentoring. Chuck did not hesitate to say ‘yes’ when he was asked to do board service again when a board member became ill and could not complete his term.”
Pecher’s father and uncle, J. Howard Pecher, who bought Skinner & Kennedy Co. from the Skinner family in the 1950s, also taught Pecher the importance of extracurricular involvement. “They always encouraged me to get involved with something other than my business,” he says. “If you’re a supplier and you get involved with association activities, you’re out there with your customers doing association business. Through the years, it’s made the industry better, and if it makes the industry better, it should make your business better, too.”
With so much success, it’s surprising to think that as a boy, Pecher dreamed of becoming something entirely different—a high school football coach. “I started playing football in the fourth grade. I played in high school and college, and I coached for a year in college,” he says.
Pecher and other members of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) leave for an annual business retreat in Chicago in 1998; Pecher winds up for another 300-yard drive at the Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) golf tournament, circa 1985; and Patricia and Chuck Pecher.
Pecher credits many people for helping him along his journey. “It’s an affirmation of what you’ve done your whole life, but it’s not just me,” he says, when asked about his induction into PPAI’s Hall of Fame. Pecher credits a few mentors who deeply impacted his career: industry veteran Harry Rosenberg, president of St. Louis, Missouri-based supplier Specialty Advertising Consultants Inc., chair of PPAI’s board from 1975-1976 and a 1983 PPAI Hall of Fame inductee; Mark Gilman, chairman of the board for Shawnee Mission, Kansas-based supplier Gill Studios; and the late Ted Olson, the longtime president of PPAI for whom the Association named its annual H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award.
Pecher recalls his first board meeting at PPAI, which he experienced with Olson. “I was pretty young at the time, and you could still smoke [in meetings] back in those days, or maybe they just stopped, but Ted loved cigars, and Ted always had a cigar in his mouth,” says Pecher. “I learned pretty quickly when I was in trouble, because when I’d say something or give my opinion, depending on how fast Ted’s cigar moved from left to right and right to left, I’d know what he thought about it,” he says, with a smile. “I learned a lot from Ted.”
And of course, he also credits his wife, Patricia “Tricia” Pecher, for her support through the years. “I couldn’t have done any of this without Trish,” he says. “If I deserve any bit of this recognition, she deserves it, too.”
Going forward, Pecher says that Skinner & Kennedy Co. will continue to grow its product line, particularly incorporating more digital design, while still providing high-quality paper goods. “We keep investing back into the business,” he says. “If you don’t keep investing back into your business, your business will die.” And personally, he hopes to incorporate more traveling for leisure, and to continue golfing, which is one of his favorite pastimes. “Earlier this year, I went to Pebble Beach for the first time and played at Pebble Beach, Spyglass and Spanish Bay,” says Pecher, of the famed California golf resort. “If there is a golf heaven, it would be Pebble Beach.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.
Finding A Need
And Filling It
Daryll H. Griffin, MAS, has left her mark on the philanthropic world, and she encourages others to do the same.
The act of volunteering, in its most basic description, is simply helping someone in need. It’s a lesson that Daryll Harris Griffin, MAS, president of Atlanta, Georgia-based distributor Accolades, Inc., learned from her parents as she joined them throughout her childhood in dedicating time and effort to various church and civic organizations. These experiences set her on a path that has led to her recognition this month at The PPAI Expo as the 2019 H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Of The Year.
“My parents were great role models and even greater humanitarians,” says Griffin. “I am an only child and I often accompanied them to nursing homes, helped my mother prepare food for neighbors, collect money for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), March of Dimes, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), etc. My father was employed by the VA Hospital for 40 years and upon retirement immediately signed up to volunteer there two days a week until he passed. My mother was an educational supervisor and would often provide money and housing for undergraduate students, and then hire them as teachers upon graduation. In our church, my parents were quite active, and their primary focus of help was with the senior citizens of the church. They served as their ombudsman, helped with food and that sort of thing. I owe my sense of drive, passion and willing commitment to my parents.”
Her parents’ example and the lessons they imparted imbued Griffin with a passion for volunteerism and the ability to recognize where her talents would be most valuable. At Stephens College, where she attended and now serves as a trustee, the school’s placement office needed resources and support in its mission to prepare students for employment. Drawing on her time at Xerox Corporation as Southeast regional manager of personnel operations, Griffin knew what employers were looking for in a new college hire and jumped right in.
“I am passionate about this road to employment placement,” says Griffin. “At Stephens, I provided mentorships, summer internships at Accolades and raised funds to build a state-of-the-art interview room and outfit a suit closet so that our students would look professional at interviews. I conducted seminars and a ‘What I know now, that I wish I knew then’ open forum, and provided books to help students with their career decisions.”
Griffin adds, “When I worked at the women’s shelter providing breakfast to mothers and children, or helped with voter registration, or collected scholarship funds for deserving students, all of these were due to need, and I remain committed to these and other causes to this day.”
Nominators Barbara Dail, MAS, and Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS, add, “We were flabbergasted wondering how Daryll ever got anything done in her business. But once you meet her and get to know her, you know you have met one of those rare people who walk the walk and live the ideals of service as a part of their DNA.”
Griffin’s volunteer and professional accomplishments have been widely recognized. She received the WBENC/Georgia Women’s Business Council’s Trailblazer Award, the Innovation Award from Turner Broadcasting, Star Supplier from Coca-Cola Enterprises, and was featured twice in the Atlanta Tribune’s Salute to Black Businesses. The Atlanta Business League has honored her with the League’s Leadership Award for her service, and in 2015, Accolades was inducted into the Atlanta Business League Hall of Fame.
For Griffin, however, her work mentoring young women at Stephens College and Spelman College is what she’s most proud of in her volunteer career she says, recalling her own mentor, the late legendary Janelle Nevins, former senior vice president at Summit Marketing Group. “One graduated from Spelman and received her MBA from my graduate alma mater, Washington University. Three interned at Accolades with one going on to become an entrepreneur herself. I am most proud of my mentee who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Spelman in 2017,” she says.
In 2016, Griffin accepted the Jackie Robinson Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award on behalf of Accolades from the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball. The annual award recognizes diversity partners who provide service which reflects the character and commitment to excellence lived by legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson; and Griffin's husband of 46 years, Mike, was her college sweetheart. Their son Michael joined Accolades in 2008 and is a past treasurer and president of GAPPP. He and his wife Erica also have given Griffin and her husband two grandchildren.
Griffin’s volunteer involvement is extensive, to say the least. She currently serves on the board of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Atlanta and in 2018 was inducted into the YWCA Academy of Women Achievers for her dedication to the organization and its mission in the community. She joins former First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Coretta Scott King, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and other notable community leaders in that honor. Griffin has been a member of the Atlanta Business League since 1992 and has served as chair of its board of directors and board secretary. She served for a decade as secretary of the United Sisterhood of Wheat Street Baptist Church and as director of Vacation Bible School, previously held positions on the boards of the Callanwolde Arts Center Foundation and the Hispanic Corporate Council of Atlanta, and was a two-term president of the North Suburban Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. She also served on the board of the Wheat Street Charitable Foundation and is a member of Leadership Atlanta Class of 2001.
Within the promotional products industry, she has served on several PPAI committees and taskforces, written for PPB magazine and is an active member of the Georgia Association of Promotional Products Professionals. In 2016, she was named a PPAI Fellow.
“Daryll gives in every way possible,” add Dail and Sokalski. “Not just to her beautiful family or friends, but to the communities she lives in, prays in, works in. She gives to help heal, build character, mentor young professionals, young women, young people of color, to know their potential, show their pride, use their God-given gifts to be better citizens of the world. And not just a few random acts of kindness. But decades of service for children and youth, education and her community. Years of continuous dedication for what’s right, what’s good.”
Volunteer services is an integral part of Griffin’s life and sits alongside her workweek at Accolades in her schedule. She credits the talented team at Accolades for clients’ seamless experience with the distributor. She also tasks each employee at the company to volunteer their time, with pay, at least once during the year.
For those looking to follow their own volunteer path, Griffin encourages them to “find a need and fill it.” She says, “Find something you are passionate about and go and help. I am usually interested in causes or programs that impact women and children, so I am naturally drawn to the YWCA, UNCF, The Links, Inc., and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority as a few examples. Most organizations are in dire need of another set of hands, so go and help. Just do it! Don’t wait to be asked, but if asked, do what you can to help.”
James Khattak is news editor of PPB.
Shining Through Service
Michele Jennrich, MAS, stands out as a gem in the promotional products industry for her selfless service.
If you see Michele Jennrich, MAS, supplier representative of Michigan-based Howard Miller Co., at The PPAI Expo this month, you’ll probably notice a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face. She loves trade shows (even setting up and tearing down booths) and treasures the time she gets to enjoy with her peers and customers.
This year, Jennrich has an extra reason to smile: she is the recipient of the 2019 PPAI Distinguished Service Award. PPAI presents this annual award to members who consistently go above and beyond to serve the Association and industry.
For many in the industry, Jennrich rises as a deserving choice for the honor. Harvey Mackler, MAS, president of GEMPIRE/Floral Promotions and one of Jennrich’s many nominators, says he hasn’t encountered a more eager volunteer than the New Jersey native.
“In all my many years of volunteerism, no one has done more voluntarily than Michele,” he says. “All her actions and activities have benefited many of us in the industry. She tirelessly works for others.”
Jennrich has volunteered countless hours serving on PPAI advisory groups, councils and committees including the Suppliers Advisory Council, MAS/CAS Advisory Council, Awards Committee, Membership Services Committee, Leadership Advisory Committee, Education Committee, Government Relations Advisory Council, Multi-line Representatives Council and Regional Association Council (RAC), among many others. From 2008-2009, she volunteered her skills and expertise as president of the Promotional Professionals Mentoring Network. She also served as regional association legislative chair from 2009-2010 and was named the RAC Volunteer of the Year in 2011. In 2016, Jennrich received PPAI Fellow recognition for her personal involvement in the industry.
When there’s a need, Jennrich is happy to help the industry she adores. “This industry has been very good to me,” she says, “and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Always up for traveling, Jennrich has been an active participant in PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) since its inception in 2010. Each year, she joins dozens of industry colleagues in Washington, D.C. to educate legislators about the issues most pressing to the promotional products industry.
Jennrich has also volunteered in numerous ways for the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY), including serving from 1992-1999 as a director, treasurer, secretary, vice president and president. In appreciation for her dedication and contributions, Jennrich was named to the SAAGNY Hall of Fame in 2003. Through the SAAGNY Foundation, Jennrich experienced one of her most rewarding volunteer moments when she coordinated Santa visits for the Lavelle School of the Blind. “Seeing the faces of children as Santa taught them how to play the kazoo or let them feel his beard was something very special,” Jennrich says.
Over the course of her 42 years in the promotional products industry, Jennrich has shared, guided, mentored and given back in countless ways, and somehow, she always finds a way to give back just a little bit more.
“A person like Michele is a rare find. Her giving to the industry is unending,” says industry colleague and nominator, Richard Danziger, president of Bankers Pen, Inc. “Michele is the consummate industry professional [who] exemplifies what industry excellence is all about, but Michele’s giving does not end within the industry. Michele is one of those rare people who manages to find time to also give in her local community.”
Jennrich undoubtedly possesses a great love for the promotional products industry and shares an equal passion for helping those in her New Jersey community. She has served as logistics chair for the American Cancer Relay for Life, organized backpacks for low-income children, volunteered on a community committee after Hurricane Irene ripped through Parsippany, New Jersey, and served on a committee that made homemade spaghetti dinners for first responders after the hurricane. For 15 years, Jennrich has also been a Township of Parsippany Board of Adjustments member.
Jennrich particularly enjoyed serving as a Road to Recovery driver for the American Cancer Society, during which she drove patients to their treatments. Sometimes, though, she became more than a driver. Jennrich recalls a poignant moment when an older woman she had driven to the doctor received news that her cancer had spread, and she had a short amount of time to live. “This was devastating news to hear without any family around,” Jennrich says. “I was so happy to be there for her.”
From left, Jennrich's family includes granddaughter Brynn and grandson Bryce; and Michele Jennrich is all smiles as chair of the SAAGNY show on its opening day in Atlantic City in the 1990s.
However she is called to help, volunteering comes naturally to Jennrich, who grew up volunteering with her parents. As big supporters of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, her family often wrapped presents at the mall before Christmas or volunteered at the concession stand during baseball games. “I also moved around quite a bit,” she says, “and volunteering gave me the opportunity to meet new people and give back a little.”
Jennrich’s heartfelt service and impactful contributions have brightened the promotional products industry, but Jennrich doesn’t desire the spotlight. “There are so many people in this industry who do so much,” she says. “I am humbled to be recognized and honored to be selected.”
Patricia Dugan, MAS, of BUDGETCARD, Inc., who nominated Jennrich for the award, says that her colleague has become an icon for her tireless service, both inside and outside of the industry. “I have never known Michele to say no to any request for help,” Dugan says. “Michele has never done anything in order to get recognition. She has volunteered because it was the right thing to do.”
When Jennrich looks back on her career, she counts it a great success to have worked in the industry for 42 years and to have worked for Howard Miller Co. for 25 of those years. “Success is being the sole provider for most of those years and being a responsible adult and member of my industry and society,” she says.
If Jennrich finds herself with a spare hour, she’ll spend it walking at the beach or calling her family in California. “I am the proud mother of one son, Chris, who is married, and with his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of my two grandchildren, Bryce and Brynn,” she says. “Unfortunately, we live on opposite coasts, but thank goodness for Facetime.”
Jennrich may shy away from the spotlight, but when it comes to lending a hand, helping others thrive and building up the promotional products industry, she shines.
Audrey Sellers is a Dallas, Texas-area writer and former associate editor of PPB.