Volume 36, Issue 9, September 2001
Concern for Others is Just One of Jim Johnson's Endearing Qualities
- by Elizabeth Herlan
The following profile is the first of a two-part series introducing the 2001 inductees into the Glass and Metal Hall of
FameTM. This year Jim Johnson of Sommer and Maca Industries and Dale Schenian of City Auto Glass will be recognized for their accomplishments at the awards ceremony that will take place on October 5, 2001, in conjunction with Glass Expo
A lot has changed in the 21 years that Jim Johnson has worked in the glass industry. The biggest impact he’s witnessed comes from the integration of technology in day-to-day business. “Five years ago I didn’t own a PC and now I’m designing a website!” he said. As executive vice president of Sommer and Maca Industries in Cicero, Ill., he has played a significant role in the growth of the company.
Jim (far left) spends time with his family on Father’s Day of this year.
Johnson has built a successful career based on the same principals that shape his personal life. No matter how busy he gets, he always finds the time to check up on those around him. “He’s a wonderful person who is always willing to help people out,” his daughter Catherine said.
Johnson’s boss, Sommer and Maca president Dick Carroll, described him as “a man with integrity beyond reproach.” The two have worked together for 20 years. “Jim is extremely hardworking and is an unselfish, moralistic person,” he added.
Dave Nelson, regional vice president for the central branch of Sommer and Maca, has worked with Johnson for 17 years. “Jim is a very good administrator and a good teacher,” he said. “He’s a great guy who is very down to earth.”
Jim Johnson is regarded as a hard worker and devoted family man.
Growing up, he didn’t anticipate having a successful career in the glass industry or being inducted into the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame, for that matter. However, he always did strive for success. “A common theme throughout my career has been to help service owners of small businesses,” he said.
Johnson was born in New Orleans and moved several times before settling in Indianapolis for most of his youth. After high school, he attended the University of Notre Dame, and his four years there provided significant experiences that would shape the rest of his life. During college he was a member of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), and after graduating with a degree in business administration he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.
Finding his Niche
Careerwise, Johnson began in retail sales with JCPenney after his stretch in the Army, and then moved on to handling sales for a large oil company. For 11 years, he owned his own franchise consulting business for the petroleum industry. During that time he earned his master’s degree in education from St. Francis University in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Twenty-one years ago I took my first job with Sommer and Maca as national sales manager and then I served as vice president of sales before assuming my current position,” Johnson said. His years of experience have provided a sound perspective on the current and future states of the industry. “The glass industry continues to grow slowly as a reflection of economic conditions,” noted Johnson.
During his tenure, the company has experienced tremendous growth with the biggest change involving its utilization of the website as a selling tool. “I developed the content for the website and an outside company handles the technical work,” he explained. “I am responsible for maintaining it by deciding what should be added or deleted.
“As a manufacturer, you are always trying to think of ways to expand your business,” he said. The site has helped the company increase sales and has also given Sommer and Maca greater reach and simplified accessibility for its customers.
Johnson has also been active with several industry organizations. He served on the National Glass Association’s (NGA) board of directors and in March 2000 received its Maurice Russell Petersen Memorial Leadership Award. As a part of the NGA architectural committee he helped develop questions for the organization’s certification exams. Johnson also served on the NGA’s ICOPS committee, where he worked to develop installation standards for auto glass replacement. When that dissolved he continued his efforts as a member of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) committee.
The Fighting Irish
Today, 42 years after graduating from Notre Dame, Johnson’s love for his alma mater is still illustrated through his continued involvement with the university. “As a student I was co-captain of the fencing team, which in turn led to a position on the board of directors of the Notre Dame Monogram Club,” Johnson said. He has also served as president of the local alumni club and currently sits on the board of directors, and in 1987 he was named Man of the Year by the Fox Valley Chapter of the Notre Dame Club.
Jim says his college experiences at Notre Dame helped shape the rest of his life.
His time spent as one of the “Fighting Irish” also helped shape his spiritual life. “A lot of the priests and professors there were very influential and made a strong impression on me,” Johnson said. The importance of faith has remained with him throughout his life. He is an active member of his church and is a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus. “He does a lot of volunteer work, especially with the Knights of Columbus,” Catherine said. “He is a wonderful person who has been a big inspiration for me.”
Notre Dame was an all-male school at the time when Johnson attended; yet, he still managed to meet his wife during his junior year while on a road-trip to a football game in Philadelphia. He and some friends took the train to New York City after the game to meet up with more friends who had managed to round up a group of girls. “Georgianne and I hit it off right away,” Johnson remembers. “She was going to college in New York and I was in Indiana so it was hard being apart until we both graduated.” They have been happily married for 41 years. Their family has grown to include three children—Robert, Catherine and Theresa—and seven grandchildren who all live in the Chicago area.
Having everyone live so close allows for frequent family gatherings. He frequently checks up on all of his children and grandchildren to see how they are doing and if they need his help for anything. “He goes out of his way to visit with us and goes to almost all of his grandchildren’s sporting events,” said his son Robert.
His youngest daughter Theresa explained that her dad was always a source of sound advice. “He coached me along in life,” she said. “When it came to making a tough decision, he would help me weigh the options. I always had to make the final decision but he always steered me in the right direction.”
Join us for the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame Ceremony
The Glass and Metal Hall of Fame award is presented annually to industry standouts.
This is the eighth year that industry standouts will be inducted into the Glass and Metal Hall of FameTM. Inductions will be held on Friday October 5 at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, in conjunction with Glass Expo Midwest 2001.
Previous inductees include Bill Birch of the Glass Association of North America, Frank Dlubak of Dlubak Corp., Ed Fennell of Bartelstone Glass, Fritz Frisdon of Benz Glass Company, Terry Fuldner of EFCO Corp., Bill Hart of Hart Glass, Herman Helfer of Costell Glass, Joe Kellman of Globe Glass, Alan Maca of Sommer & Maca Industries, Harry Miles of AFG Industries, Shirley Palmer-Ball of Palmer Mirror Corp., Maurice Petersen of Petersen Aluminum, Ralph Ross of North American Glass Industries, Virgil Taylor formerly of Reliable Glass, Jim Trainor of Trainor Glass, Lionel Vachon of National Glass and Gate, C.C. Vanderstar of U.S. Aluminum, Ed Williams of Edwards Glass Co. and Walter Williams of Cardinal Glass.
The dinner and ceremony are open to all who wish to attend for $58 per person. The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the induction ceremony at approximately 8:15 p.m. Those interested in attending the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame awards dinner or Glass Expo Midwest ’01 can contact USGlass magazine at 540/720-5584.
Elizabeth Herlan is the marketing assistant for USGlass magazine.
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