The glass industry has lost another individual who had worked tirelessly for the industry. William (Bill) J. Birch passed away on Saturday, June 27, in Topeka, Kan., at the age of 81. He served as the executive vice president of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) from its formation in 1994 to his retirement in 2000. Prior to GANA, he served in a management capacity for the Flat Glass Marketing Association (FGMA), Laminators Safety Glass Association (LSGA) and the Glass Tempering Association (GTA) prior to their merger to form GANA.
Birch was recognized numerous times for his contributions to the industry. In 1997 he was inducted into the Glass and Metal Hall of Fame™, sponsored by USGlass magazine. In March 2001, Birch also was the recipient of the Glass Professional of the Year Award.
Birch was the first president of Association Services Corporation (now known as Centric Management and Consulting Inc.) starting in 1976 and retired on December 31, 2000, serving in the capacity for 43 years.
“Our company was created years before an association management company was the norm, so the glass and glazing industry was on the cutting edge to create this type of collaborative organization,” says Bill Yanek, president of Centric Management and Consulting Inc. “Bill Birch helped to form our company and lead us through growth, change and consolidation, and we are grateful for his 43 years of leadership in our organization. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
“[Birch] really led the flat glass marketing association and GANA at a very critical time transitioning from the Flat Glass Marketing Association, the laminated safety glass association and North American Association of Mirror Manufacturers all into GANA,” says John Dwyer, president of Syracuse Glass Co., and a GANA past president. “He was at the helm at that critical time. On behalf of everyone at GANA our sincere condolences [to his family].”
“I worked a lot with him in early days of FGMA,” says William Lingnell of Lingnell Consulting Services. “He was a pioneer in a lot of the things we did with association work. He did an awful lot for that organization and a lot of organizations patterned themselves after what he did … We will miss him.”
Birch was born June 22, 1934, in Parsons, Kan., the son of Larry and Louise Spalding Birch. He graduated from high school in Greensburg, and graduated from Kansas State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration. He then attended Washburn University where he earned his Juris Doctorate degree. Birch served in the U.S. Army from February 1955 until March 1957.
Birch is survived by his wife of 59 years, Alice M. Gerstenkorn; two sons, Michael J. Birch and Christopher D. Birch; two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Everett; and his sister Linda Reimann. He was preceded in death by his sister, Nancy Morphis.
Memorial contributions may be given to Midland Care, 200 SW Frazier Circle, Topeka, Kan., 66606 or to the KSU Cancer Center, 1 Chalmers Hall, Manhattan, Kan., 66506.