AWCI's Pinnacle Award Winner

May 2008

They said it wouldn’t happen.

They said a manufacturer would never, ever be president of a contractors’ association like the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.

Then came Bob Geyer, and it was 1999.

At the time, Geyer was vice president of operations for the Concord, Calif.–based John Wagner Associates, Inc., a manufacturer/designer/distributor of drywall screws and related drywall and other proprietary products. And in July 1999, Geyer became AWCI president, the first noncontractor to be so honored.

But the talk didn’t stop there.

Then they said a noncontractor would never win AWCI’s highest honor, the Pinnacle Award. A Pinnacle Award winner is recognized for giving unselfishly of his time and energies to benefit AWCI and the industry. Not only are the candidates evaluated on their dedication to the industry, but on their civic and community work and the excellence of their companies.

Nowhere in the rules does it say that the Pinnacle Award must be given only to a contractor, and Geyer reminded everyone of that on March 26, when he was awarded the coveted Pinnacle Award during the Awards Presentation Brunch at AWCI’s annual convention in Las Vegas, Nev.

When interviewed in 1999 for this magazine, Geyer was asked why and how he became the first manufacturer president of what is widely known to be primarily a contractors’ association.

"I’m very aware of the fact that I’m not a contractor in a contractor-focused organization,” he said. "I think my actions have to reflect that, and that I’m not in this for my personal gain.”

He said his long-time experience in operations would be a benefit. "No matter what the business is, financial and operational issues are similar, and I hope I can bring some experience and solutions to contractors,” said Geyer in 1999, when he was in his first month as AWCI’s president. "I’ve always been interested in learning about other people’s business—not to be nosy, but to help me in my business, and I think now that I can offer some help in return.”

"I live and breathe this industry,” he said. "I can’t think of anything I don’t like about it. I get excited traveling around the country and seeing how people have grown. Many who started out in the warehouse or driving a truck are now running their own business—in the second and sometimes third generation.”

Geyer’s construction career started in 1972 when he joined his brother, who had teamed up with John Wagner to start John Wagner Associates. He worked for about a year out of Thorofare, N.J., and then moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to handle the entire Southeast region. And he’s been in Ft. Lauderdale ever since.

Although Ft. Lauderdale is his home, he is not there very often. He spends much of his time traveling; in the 1999 interview, Geyer estimated he was traveling 150,000 miles per year. He said, "I travel three out of four weeks in a year, but during the middle part of the year, five weeks out of six.” Geyer’s job is to oversee the Wagner outlets, to visit the sites and make sure they are performing to specifications. But, early on, he began to use these trips as opportunities to also meet contractors.

In addition to his travel for work, Geyer’s position on AWCI’s Continuing Study Committee have also allowed him to see far-away places.

AWCI Executive Vice President Steven A. Etkin said, "Bob was a great statesman for the association. Because of his position with his company, he knew everybody everywhere, having been in the industry for 30 years. Most of our presidents are familiar with their region, and some of the national members. Bob had a feeling for everybody and the history of every company.”

In providing his comments for the award presentation, last year’s Pinnacle winner, Ron Brady, had this to say about his friend: "Bob was one of the primary liaisons between the exhibitors, manufacturers and suppliers with the AWCI Convention Committee for a lot of years as an associate member to AWCI. In 1990, when we abolished the associate membership classification, Bob was the first previous associate member to be selected by the nominating committee to start through the chairs … going all the way and serving as our president.”

Obviously, Geyer has been an active AWCI member for quite some time, serving the association in various ways. His committee work and presidency have taken him farther down the AWCI road than most noncontractors have gone, but Geyer is also noted for helping the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry raise funds for its educational programs. Over the years, Geyer had a major role in helping to secure the Grabber-sponsored automobile that would be auctioned off every year at AWCI’s annual convention.

But most of all, Geyer is known among the AWCI circles as the guy who proved "them” all wrong when he became the first noncontractor to become AWCI president and, now, the recipient of the association’s highest honor.