Process, Process, Process
“I thought it was spam,” is how Elizabeth recalls her initial reaction to the email FTA President Mark Cisternino covertly sent her, in order to make contact with Greg’s family and inform them of his Hall of Fame induction. “I didn’t know what was going on. But then I spoke to Mark later on the phone, and the way he described him as a colleague—a leader, passionate, knowledgeable and a friend—it was the exact same way I look at him as my dad.”
Photos courtesy of the Collins family
To an outsider, seeing Greg home for dinner and helping his daughters with homework every night, never miss an extracurricular activity and build a side job as a travel agent, it would be reasonable to assume he saw work as a job and not a career. Punch in, punch out; rinse, repeat.
To FTA and package printing insiders, nothing could be further from the truth. Greg’s give-all attitude extended to the Association and the industry it serves, and he kept those two sides distinct—Dr. Blade and Mr. Collins, if you will.
“My dad’s not a real social guy, but I’ve been to two or three FTA conferences. I met plenty of the people he works with, and there, he was so outgoing and social, we’d think ‘We never see you like this!’” Elizabeth remembers. “If he’s doing something, then he cares about it, and in that case, it was important to have good relationships with the people he was working with.”
Greg’s involvement with the Association stretches as far back as the premier edition of FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances), with his working at a wide web, flexible packaging converter being a prime catalyst for buying into the methodology, Cisternino recalls. Despite a full plate at C-P Flexible Packaging, he found time on nights and weekends to devote to FTA’s endeavors.
“He’s an engineer, and he approached the Association like a production process,” FTA’s president explains. That process-oriented approach led to establishing a series of systems and procedures—documented in another legendary spreadsheet—that became the FORUM Oversight Committee.
In early 2006, Greg was asked to join the FTA Board of Directors and FFTA Board of Trustees. Over lunch with another FTA Hall of Fame Member, Mark Mazur, he debated if he should accept the offer. “It took him quite a while to decide, because he didn’t know if he could make a meaningful contribution,” Mazur explains. “His bosses were OK with it, but he thought long and hard before saying ‘yes.’”
The answer ultimately was “yes” and Greg joined the FTA and FFTA Boards later that year. In 2009, he became Board of Directors Chair. All Printing Resources Inc President and CEO Dave Nieman was the Chair whom Greg succeeded. Their paths had crossed years earlier, when he met the new Hall of Famer at C-P Flexible Packaging. “Even then, I was really impressed with his knowledge and his organization—You could tell he really had it together,” says Nieman, who was inducted into the FTA Hall of Fame last year. He adds that, throughout their overlap on FTA and FFTA’s boards, nothing had changed from that first impression.
“I always felt Greg was incredibly prepared and very analytical. The time that we were on the board together, he brought a lot of that to what was going on, especially during some pretty tough times.”
Cisternino echoes that sentiment: “He was the ‘right time, right place, right person’ to be sitting in the Chair position. Even today, we’re still reaping the benefits of some of the decisions Greg made 10 years ago.”
He boasts a near-perfect FORUM and Fall Conference attendance record, and has worked on Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) projects. In 2008, Greg received the FTA President’s Award. That same year, in a FLEXO Magazine feature to recognize the Association’s 50th anniversary, he spoke to what it had given him: “The ideas and resources obtained through interaction with FTA and at FTA events have allowed me to dramatically expand my printing knowledge and have enabled my company to pursue and master emerging flexographic technologies, which have facilitated a 10-fold improvement in our printing capabilities and quality during the past 10 to 15 years.”
Taken together, Greg’s curriculum vitae of FTA work reveals a key trait: His willingness to share knowledge in pursuit of a greater good. As Nieman points out, induction into the FTA Hall of Fame is proof of that fact.
“It shows that you go above and beyond what you really care about; that you’re not thinking about what’s in your best interest,” he says. “Greg’s that kind of person: He wants to make the industry better, not just make himself better.”
That mentality persisted even after his retirement in January of 2018—10 months later, he would appear on stage in Cleveland, OH at Fall Conference 2018 to explain in detail how printers can increase productivity in every one of their departments. His willingness to aid the Association was unwavering throughout his career. As FTA president for nearly all of it, Cisternino is well-positioned to appreciate that service.
“Until he formally said ‘I’m done,’ there was never a time that he was not interested in doing something. He would always step up and take on what you asked him to do,” he remembers. “Why? Greg just loved what we did. He loved sharing. And I don’t think he has any expectations of grandeur. His involvement with FTA has been something that just made him feel good about himself.”