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Editorial

Farewell to ‘The Chief’

By Mike D'Alexander

FFJournal combines its magazine and website

FFJ-0916-editorial-lead.jpgSeptember 2016 - My Dad (William J. D'Alexander pictured) started his 62-year publishing career with Steel magazine at Penton Publishing in 1954. After a few very successful years as a salesman, Dad was given an opportunity as sales manager for another Penton publication, Packaging Digest. At the time, it was the smallest and least profitable Penton title, essentially a long-term project. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Dad accepted the job and quickly realized Packaging Digest’s potential, becoming publisher in 1969. 

In 1973, Dad and two of his salesmen bought Packaging Digest, creating Delta Communications. Soon “PD” became the No. 1 grossing publication in the packaging industry, and Delta grew its stable of leading industry publications. Dad always attributed Delta's success to hard work, hiring the right people, creativity and some luck.  

From 1982 through 1986, Dad served on the board of the American Business Press (now ABM/Connectiv) and acted as its chairman in 1983. 

In 1985, Dad and his partners sold Delta Communications to the Dutch-based company Elsevier, where he stayed on as president and CEO until 1992. Under his leadership, Delta grew to 22 magazines. 

Not ready to retire, in 1993 he bought Modern Metals, Grocery Marketing and New Product News from Reed Elsevier, creating Trend Publishing. Grocery Headquarters and New Product News were sold, placing the focus on metals. Today, family-owned Trend Publishing has four magazines serving metals, coming full circle to the industry that launched his career.    

On July 17, 2016, Dad passed away in Palm Beach at the age of 88. He was active in the business until his final days.

William J. D’Alexander was a born leader who, over the years, became a renowned name in the trade magazine publishing community. Anyone who has worked for him, or who came to know him, will tell you what a remarkable man he was. As an employer, he had the uncanny ability to bring out the best in people. His current and former employees, who threw a party to celebrate his 85th birthday in 2012, will tell you so.

Dad loved life and you could see it. He engaged people he met and was genuinely interested in them and what they were doing. He could illuminate a room with his presence and people loved being around him. To Dad, it made no difference whether you were a busboy or president of a Fortune 500 company, he believed in treating all human beings with kindness and dignity. 

Growing up, despite his busy business schedule, my three brothers and I could always count on Dad to attend all of our football, basketball and baseball games. And though he loved to see our teams win, what mattered most to him was that we each gave maximum effort.

As a strict teacher, Dad made it clear at an early age that his relationship with us would be one of parent-child and not friend. He believed in tough love and taught us the importance of a strong work ethic and responsibility. We were all required to have jobs at an early age. Paper routes, cutting grass, shoveling snow, household chores and working in restaurants became routine. After graduating from college, it was required that we started our careers working for other employers rather than working for him. Merely being his sons did not entitle us. I can remember him telling me once that it was an important learning experience for us to see how other individuals ran their businesses.

For as much of a stickler for rules as Dad was, it’s important to know that he gave my brothers and me an enormous amount of love. It was a balancing act he seemed to perfect. He believed there was a time for compassion and his advice in guiding us through life’s travails was, and will forever be, invaluable. The greatest advice he gave us was to believe in ourselves.

Dad was a wonderful husband to my mother and stepmother. He treated them with respect, loyalty and love. After my Mom’s untimely death at the age of 47, Dad went on to marry and find happiness again. Both his marriages were based on the foundation that a husband and wife are a team. In marriage, he would say, you each have to give 110 percent of yourself to your spouse, because 100 percent just wasn’t enough. He knew how fortunate he was to have found two exceptional ladies and cherished his relationships with them. I think that was evident to those who knew him.

I will miss Dad’s advice, his smile and his eyes. My family is so grateful for having had him in our lives. Too many children in the world never have the precious gift of a father, let alone one like our Dad. We have all learned so much from him and will never forget the indelible mark he has left on us.

It is our hope going forward that we will carry on his torch and underscore the standard for excellence he established with Delta Communications and Trend Publishing. FFJ

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