Rex Williams

Rex Williams

Ol' Mr. Blue Jeans

Rex Williams Receives
2016 IADD Presidential Award

Written by Jeremy Guest, President, Diansuply, Inc., High Ridge, MO, USA

The Presidential Award is really something to look forward to as IADD President. It is a great honor to recognize any of our members for any type of award because, when it comes down to it, they are serving the industry. They are volunteering. Volunteering their time, their money and their knowledge. In fact, they are actually paying to volunteer!

But the IADD members who truly get what we are about are not paying—they are investing. They are investing in their companies, they are investing in their people, they are investing in their future and they are investing in the industry’s future.

Most IADD awards have strict criteria. For example, the Cutting Edge Award that was recently given to Shaun Larson of Jonco Die Co. Inc. is a, “What have you done for me lately?” award. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because our Association is driven by people like Shaun, and our growth and advancement is reliant upon the constant push for more, more, more.

But while we continue to look ahead and push for more, more, more, we cannot forget that there are members and former members who were once the “cutting edge” guys and gals.

Many of you know my personal story of how I married into the industry. That Christy went to work for her mom at Diansuply to help her sell it and voila—11 years later, I am standing here. There were many, many IADD members who welcomed Christy and me into the IADD family with open arms and I could go on for hours and hours about them. I hate singling people out for the sake of possibly missing someone, but I would be remiss without mentioning three gentlemen in particular.

Joe Adkison (Adko, Inc.). I have probably spoken more with him about the IADD than anyone else—probably even more than with our IADD CEO, Cindy Crouse! Joe was so welcoming to Christy and me back then, and to this day offers amazing support.

Rex Williams (AdamsTech). Christy and I just love Rex and Phyllis. We have that mutual Missouri connection, and we just cannot get enough of Rex Williams, the storyteller. I will never forget the day he called me as a member of the Nominating Committee to ask me, “If nominated, would you accept a nomination to become President of the IADD?”

And Clint Medlock (Stafford Cutting Dies, Inc.). He, too, has been so supportive of both Christy and me. I talk a lot about how important the IADD is for both business and personal relationship building. I truly feel a unique relationship with Clint because I think of him as a friend, a colleague, a business partner and a mentor. I knew from day one of meeting him that he was someone in this industry who I could learn from and should strive to emulate.

I thank all three of them for being who they are.

So, back to the Award. The Presidential Award doesn’t really have any set criteria. The President gets to make the criteria up—hence the name. It could be someone who is cutting edge like Shaun, it could be someone who has given more time and energy to the industry than you could possibly imagine like Joe, it can be someone like our CEO Cindy because she just simply is amazing in how she continues to bring maximum energy to this Association every single day, every single hour, every single conference call and email. In fact all three of these people I named have been honored previously with the Presidential Award. I know this because one of the first things I did when I became President was look at who had previously received this Award. I was curious. One, you don’t want to duplicate someone, and two, I just wanted to get an idea of what type of people had been chosen in the past.

It took me about 15 seconds to figure out who I would give my first Presidential Award to. I even asked Cindy, “Are you sure Rex Williams hasn’t received this award before?” She confirmed. As we discussed this further, it became apparent that probably one of the reasons he never received it was because, for years and years, he has been a huge advocate of the newcomers and the up-and-comers. While Rex has been a huge part of the IADD for many years and has held several different leadership positions with the IADD, including President, he never failed to focus on getting the newbies involved, whether it was welcoming them to the meeting, buying them a drink and socializing or helping ease them into IADD service by getting them actively involved in a committee or chapter.

I was telling my son Tristan the other day that he needs to look for the good. Find the good in things. Rex does this all of the time. He looks for the good, finds the good and then shines the spotlight on everything—and everyone else—that is good. He…makes great happen.

I told Christy that when I think of Rex, I think of a really cool uncle. Someone who is there for you and encouraging like a close friend, yet would put you back into your place when it seemed no one else could. Someone whom you could easily lose an afternoon with just sitting on a porch, discussing life.

But my wife describes Rex best. And it is so funny because only he would appreciate this analogy. She says he is like your favorite, ol’ pair of blue jeans—tried and true, durable, supportive and strong…yet soft and comfortable. Dress ‘em up or dress ‘em down, but at the end of the day, they are just the thing that you can’t wait to get home to.

The plaque I presented to Rex also sums it up: Just as a rock remains unmoved by a storm, Rex Williams has been a rock for the IADD. No one embodies what it means to be an ambassador for the IADD more than this man. Through both his leadership and service, Rex has been steadfast, true and unwavering in his dedication to our industry. He has been a mentor and friend to so many throughout the years. Our Association and our industry are better because Rex Williams chose to serve. We are forever grateful for his contributions.

It was my honor to recognize Rex Williams as this year’s Presidential Award winner.

A brief interview with Rex
How did you get started in the industry? Describe your career path.
I entered the industry in 1969 as a diemaker with Dies Inc. in North Kansas City, MO, USA. I transitioned to Foreman, Production Manager, Sales, Sales Manager and General Manager. I retired from Dies Inc in 2002 when I joined AdamsTech and worked in sales until my retirement in 2016.

How did you get involved in IADD?
I worked with my brother, Ray Williams, at Dies Inc.. and he was an early member of the Association, back when it was called the DDA. He came back from the early meetings excited about the sharing of knowledge of the early founders. He encouraged me to attend future meetings and get involved. At one of my earliest meetings, Eugene Piette of Rayner Die Supply welcomed me and encouraged me to get involved and really participate in the IADD. He said “We need young people like you.” I was so flattered that he would take the time to encourage me when I was so young. (I think that caused me to always be looking for and encouraging others who I was sure would be great leaders and teachers.)

In most organizations, someone would be “done” after they served as President. You not only continued to serve, but you went on to contribute in numerous, important ways. What motivated you to do this, and which of your contributions were most meaningful to you?
It was, and is, hard to leave our Association that I feel is very important and needed especially for people entering our industry. I just wasn’t ready to leave what had already been started.
I think the most meaningful contribution was my longevity on the Nominating Committee. It gave me a chance to work with others to focus on members who we believed were future leaders. I am proud to say that I have been allowed to continue service on the committee even though I have retired.

What has your IADD participation meant to you? What would you tell someone who was considering joining IADD?
I have spent 47 years in this industry starting in 1969. I joined the Association in 1976. In my 40 years as a member, I am still listening to, learning from and loving everyone who I have had the opportunity to work and play with.

I had the grand pleasure to have served on the Board of Directors for 14 years. During all of those years, I was sitting shoulder to shoulder with some of the most dedicated, talented and passionate women and men in our industry.

What an experience to learn from such a wealth of talent. One simply can not come away from that without becoming a better person. I admit that I am a thief. I tried to steal qualities from each of the fine people whom I have met during my 40 years in the IADD.

I came into the Association admiring the esteemed founders for their strength of character and the sharing of information with their colleagues and, quite often, competitors. (I always likened it to “checking their guns at the door.”)

Now that my career has ended, I continue to admire those founders, but I am filled with admiration for all of the fine ladies and gentlemen whom I have had the great fortune to have met through this Association in every aspect, from long-time friends to those all-important new attendees who hopefully will experience what my wife Phyllis and I have enjoyed.

Lastly, in 47 years I have worked for two companies: Dies Inc and AdamsTech. Both of these companies encouraged my participation in the IADD. (And even though I have retired, AdamsTech still encourages my involvement.) I want to thank both of these companies and encourage other companies to send their employees to participate and learn as I have.

See past Presidential awardees—and other IADD honorees—online here