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Lifetime Members

Learn more about WERC’s Lifetime Members

From its beginning in 1977, WERC has had the commitment of many dedicated volunteers and members. Among those who have contributed the most to the organization are our Lifetime Members, awarded special recognition for the immense amount of time, steadfast support and unwavering devotion.

We’ve been collecting and sharing stories and recollections about these key figures in WERC’s inception, growth and evolution over the past few years. Three new profiles—former Executive Directors Burr Hupp and Thomas Sharpe and one of the two “fathers of WERC,” Bob Angel—have recently been posted to We invite you to read more about their roles and experiences with our association.


Ken Ackerman: WERC founder continues to serve

Back in the mid-1970s, Ken Ackerman, president of consulting firm The Ackerman Company in Columbus, Ohio, was a man on a mission. Unable to find a professional organization focused exclusively on warehousing, he and a few other colleagues formed WERC.

During his long tenure with the organization, Ackerman—who has devoted his entire career to warehousing—has served as a WERC volunteer, organizing, educating and speaking at multiple Annual Conferences. When asked what has been the biggest value and legacy of WERC, Ackerman doesn’t hesitate: “The prosperity of WERC goes back to the value it provides its members,” he says. “We have always wanted to give members a chance to share information and the opportunity to learn from one another. That’s something that continues to this day.”

Read more about Ken Ackerman here.

    Bruce Abels: A WERC founder and 40-year member

Bruce Abels, WERC’s first president, is the only person to serve in that role for three consecutive terms—from 1977 to 1980. Today, as the President of Fairfield Logistics Advisors, he’s still an active lifetime member. He cites WERC’s networking opportunities and educational offerings as being the most valuable while navigating his supply chain career.

“I have always been very grateful to those professionals who were wiser and more experienced than I, who were willing to share all they had to offer to me as a friend and colleague,” he notes. “And, I have always loved WERC’s ‘hands on’ focus, delivering usable information and skills to everyday practitioners, like me.”

Read more about Bruce Abels here.

    Bob Angel: Remembering WERC “Father” and Lifetime Member

WERC charter member Bob Angel was awarded Lifetime Member status in 1998. Although Angel has since passed away, his fellow charter member Ken Ackerman (another Lifetime Member) explained how the pair became known as “the fathers of WERC”: “In 1977 Bob reached out to me to express his frustration with a warehousing association that would not allow him to participate in their annual conference sessions because he wasn’t a member of their group,” he says. The two agreed their profession lacked an organization focused solely on sharing warehousing-specific techniques, trends and resources.

When WERC was incorporated later that year, Angel served as secretary in the first Board of Directors, and later an as Annual Conference Chair. Concludes Ackerman: “All of us who were involved in the creation of the organization—including Bob—shared a vision of what WERC could be and it’s very gratifying to see that it’s still around after 40 years.”

Read more about Bob Angel here.


Burr Hupp: A driving force behind WERC’s formation

As the first Executive Director of WERC, charter member Burr Hupp was awarded Lifetime Member status in 1997. Although Hupp—a highly regarded warehousing management consultant—has since passed away, Lifetime Member Ken Ackerman credits Hupp as the impetus for the transition of the organization from idea to reality. When Ackerman shared the idea of a new organization focused exclusively on warehousing education and research with Hupp, “He punched me in the chest and said, ‘Get on the telephone, set a date and get a few people to come talk about it.’”

Hupp agreed to participate, first sharing his experience as one of the founders of the organization now known as CSCMP, then as one of five signers of WERC’s articles of incorporation. He also served as the first Board treasurer and as Executive Director from 1977 to 1985. Lifetime Member Thomas Sharpe succeeded him as Executive Director, and credits the entrepreneurial spirit of WERC’s first volunteer leaders, Hupp among them, as a significant factor in the organization’s success: “The association’s longevity and importance within the industry is truly a reflection of the founders’ initial vision and commitment.”

Read more about Burr Hupp here.

    Tom Sharpe: Former Executive Director revamped Conference as foundation for WERC’s success

When WERC launched in 1977, volunteers ran the organization and planned its Annual Conference. Just seven years later, the group had grown to more than 1,200 members and the volunteers were quickly becoming overburdened by their success.

The Board of Directors decided to hire WERC’s first “official” full-time employee, an Executive Director. In 1985 they hired Thomas Sharpe, who brought event planning and management experience, as well as a background in developing educational seminars and training programs for two different associations. He served the organization until his retirement in 2000, when he was honored by the Board with lifetime membership.

“It was clear that WERC had great potential,” he recalls. “But the organization’s most significant challenge was the implementation of its Annual Conference, which lacked continuity and professional management.”

Sharpe immediately established and implemented controls, processes and procedures across a variety of areas—including membership recruitment and retention. He also restructured the Annual Conference with major changes in the venue and format. His goal was simple: Take over all operational details and on-site management, while redirecting volunteers’ limited time toward identifying trends that should be addressed. That model is still in place today. 

“I’m so proud of what WERC accomplished during my 15 years,” he says. “Within a few short years, the Annual Conference gained national recognition by becoming one of the best education programs available in warehousing and distribution. Equally important, the event went from being a risky financial proposition for the association to contributing significantly to WERC's bottom line.”

Read more about Tom Sharpe here.