Gary Hilliard, a Future-Focused Flexographer, Elected to FTA Hall of Fame

Gary Hilliard FTA Hall of Fame Ellen cruiseFTA President Mark Cisternino added, “Gary told me many times how much the FTA meant to him over the years and it was evident based on the number of initiatives on which he volunteered to serve. As Chairman of the FFTA during a critical turnaround period for the organization, Gary was instrumental in leading us out of an especially stressful financial period as the board and management team worked to overcome the economic conditions and re-engineer our business model, emerging as a stronger and more relevant entity serving the FTA membership.

“His leadership and guidance were invaluable to the board, organization and me personally,” Cisternino remarked. “I’m going to miss our conversations…and his smiling face.”

Dave Nieman, All Printing Resources, had similar words. “It was an honor for me to be able to serve with Gary as cochairs of the Board of Directors. During this time I developed an even greater appreciation for his selfless commitment to the industry and his passion for training and education of others. Gary always brought a positive attitude to any challenge and a willingness to meet the challenge head on, which was inspirational. His contributions to our association and most importantly his friendship will be greatly missed.”

Gary Hilliard FTA Hall of Fame Ellen beachEchoing those thoughts, Mike Impastato, formerly of Flint Group, said, “Gary preceded me as chairman of the FFTA, so I was lucky to learn from one of the best. We worked on the board together for a number of years and it was insightful and inspiring to see how enthusiastic and serious Gary took on his responsibilities for the Association. I have always said that the only way to get the most from your membership with the FTA is to actively participate. I know Gary got the most out of his membership and FTA experiences because he led from the front. It was a pleasure to serve on the board with Gary and the Association benefited from his service and those serving beside him benefited from his example of leadership and fellowship.

According to Jean Engelke, Kodak, current FQC chair, “Gary so believed in the flexo process that he converted the Candy Nut Roll from rotogravure to flexo for the Pearson Candy Co. Pearson was so pleased that it sent the plant a giant Candy Nut Roll weighing about 15 pounds. Gary wrote an article about this for the FTA’s 50th Anniversary Journal. He also worked with Tony Bart and Pat O’Brien from DuPont on the early development of photopolymer plates on that job. They successfully converted the candy bar wrappers from rubber to photopolymer. An in another endeavor, Gary was involved in trials on the very first sets of laser engraved ceramic anilox rolls from Union Carbide Co.”

She noted with respect, “Gary has clearly demonstrated his commitment to the flexo industry. His volunteer and leadership activities have shown his dedication to the advancement of flexography. He now is a distinguished FTA Hall of Fame member.”

Tony Bart a mentor and Hall of Fame member himself, said, “Gary Hilliard was a flexographer—it was not only his occupation but also his passion. I’ve known Gary for at least 35 years and we met through flexography.

“I was several years older and more experienced in flexo when we met. He was hungry for and open to anything related to flexographic printing. He was a fast learner who applied all that he learned to his printing needs to upgrade quality and productivity. With some years under his belt, Gary became both a contributor and a promoter of the flexo process,” Bart recalled.Gary Hilliard FTA Hall of Fame presenting

“At meetings and in committees he was always a gentleman and pleasure to work with. Even when he was not in agreement with proposals presented to him, he was always polite and respectful in rebuttal. He was also a help in his critique of a product or technology, which then led to improvements in new products and technology. These product and process upgrades helped his company and the industry in general,” Bart continued. “What an irony that he could not publicly reap the joy of receiving the Hall of Fame award which he earned and deserved. Hopefully, his learning of that accomplishment, just before his passing, added a satisfaction to his much too brief life.”

Joe Tuccitto, FTA, shared Gary’s insatiable appetite for education and training. In fact, the two became close friends as they developed that common focus. “Gary’s life was taken away from us too soon and it is hard to understand why tragic things like this happen to such good people,” Tuccitto said in offering a formal eulogy.

“Gary’s friendship and mine started in kind of a strange way. We didn’t work together, grow up together or attend college together. We actually met because we shared the same passion for the industry we both work in. Gary was a flexographer, as am I! “ Tuccitto proudly proclaimed. “Through design and print quality, Gary was determined to make packages grow legs and jump off the store shelves and into your cart.

“Gary’s passion for the industry, combined with his love for the FTA, has left a significant mark on the flexographic industry worldwide,” Tuccitto maintained. “Memories that Gary has left us with will be in our hearts forever. And, for future generations of flexographers Gary’s legacy will live forever!”

Gary’s Gameplan

  • “Standards are more and more relevant as CPCs adopt them for quality control and communications… Have a voice in such initiatives.”—2012
  • “Use the best technology and techniques available. –2008
  • “Help designers help you succeed.”—2005
  • “Commit to education and training, as well as continued technical advancement. It’s essential.”—2002
  • “Flexo: You’ve come a long way baby! Keep on going.”—Multiple Occasions