Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Lifetime Member Burr Hupp, a driving force behind WERC’s formation
As the first Executive Director of the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)—from the organization’s inception in 1977 until his retirement in 1985—charter member Burr Hupp was awarded Lifetime Member status in 1997. Although Hupp has since passed away, his peers shared their recollections of his contributions to the organization.
As one of the two “fathers of WERC” (the other being Lifetime Member Bob Angel), Lifetime Member Ken Ackerman, credits Hupp—a highly regarded warehousing management consultant—as the impetus for the transition of the organization from idea to reality.
“Over breakfast in the spring of 1977, I shared the idea of a new organization focused exclusively on warehousing education and research with two colleagues on The Ohio State University’s faculty to get their thoughts,” Ackerman recalls. “When I ran into Burr at a logistics conference later that year, I told him about that discussion.”
His reaction, chuckles Ackerman, was classic Hupp: “He punched me in the chest and said, ‘It’s never going to happen with three guys yacking over breakfast. Get on the telephone, set a date and get a few people to come talk about it.’ Burr was a very direct guy—he would have made a great general—he was very military, bald, and had a commanding presence. When he said something, you were supposed to say, ‘Yes, sir!’”
Ackerman indeed said “Yes, sir!” and set up a preliminary gathering of colleagues and peers to discuss the potential of forming a new association. Hupp also agreed to participate. As one of the founders of the organization now known as CSCMP, he’d been through this process before and wanted to share from his experience, continued Ackerman.
“We held the meeting at an airport hotel in Columbus so people could fly in, meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., then fly back home—again, Burr’s suggestion,” he recounts. “Several people attended, including members of the boards of CSCMP and the group now known as IWLA. In the meeting, we emphasized that our objective was to create a complimentary organization, not a competitive one.”
When WERC was officially established in September 1977, Hupp—along with Ackerman—were two of the five signers of the articles of incorporation. He also served as the treasurer of the first Board of Directors, and agreed to take on the role of acting Executive Director, locating the headquarters in the offices of his Chicago-based firm.
Bruce Abels, WERC Lifetime Member and first WERC Board President (and the only person to serve in that role for three consecutive terms, from 1977 to 1980) likewise remembers Hupp as “one of the stars in the warehousing universe at that time.”
“Burr was a figure that everybody was just in awe of. He was very, very smart, but he wasn’t arrogant about it; he had a combination of dignity and reserve. There was a certain manner about him that said this is somebody who knows what he’s doing,” recalls Abels. “Burr liked to teach. He was helpful to younger people just establishing their careers in our industry, he was always a speaker at every warehousing and logistics conference, and his sessions were always well attended. He was just somebody you really looked up to.”
When Hupp retired to Sarasota, Florida—and as WERC’s membership steadily grew—the organization outsourced its operation to a third-party association management firm in 1979. But the arrangement didn’t work out, and Hupp agreed to resume his role as Executive Director from his new home, assisted by his wife Jan.
“Burr was extremely meticulous,” adds Abels. “In his personal appearance, there was never a hair out of place. In his professional management, there was never a hair out of place.”
After four years as Executive Director, Hupp wrote in the October 1984 WERCSheet: “When I started in April 1980, WERC had around 300 to 400 members. Having the WERC office in our home, and having Jan work with me, was an appropriate arrangement. Now, however, WERC has well over 1,000 members and is growing rapidly. It needs a strong, experienced executive director, supported by a highly qualified, full-time staff, with a well-equipped office that provides plenty of work area and storage facilities. In short, to serve an organization that may soon have 2,000 members, WERC needs a whole new management setup. At my age, I’d rather have someone else undertake that responsibility.”
Lifetime Member Thomas Sharpe succeeded Hupp as WERC Executive Director from 1985 to 2000. “My first week at WERC in early March of 1985 was spent in Sarasota being brought up to speed by the Hupps. Then, I established an office in Oak Brook, Illinois,” he recalls. “Burr and Jan were extremely gracious toward me and I never forgot it. The transition from the Hupp’s leadership to the new staff was seamless and couldn’t have been done more smoothly thanks to them.”
It was the entrepreneurial spirit of WERC’s volunteer leaders, Hupp among them, whom Sharpe credits as being a significant factor in the organization’s initial and ongoing success.
“Burr and his peers were all very successful in their respective businesses and wanted WERC to function entrepreneurially as well,” he concludes. “The association’s longevity and importance within the industry is truly a reflection of the founders’ initial vision and commitment.”
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