• AWCI Centennial - 1970s

    The 1970s: Consolidation

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AWCI's Centennial: The 1970s

“I suggest we get on with it.”
— John W. Thomson Jr., iaWCC president emeritus, May 15, 1976


The 1970s was the decade of Watergate, Vietnam and a string of Hollywood disaster movies. They was inflationary, and bad economics pointed to a government at fault for financing huge deficits.


Consolidation. Industry consolidation was the topic of the day. Talk of a merger of two associations—one representing plastering contractors, the other drywall contractors—had been brewing since the 1960s. Some contractors wanted nothing to do with it. They felt being specialized, not generalized, had value. As they saw it, combining two associations would create one big, bureaucratic beast.

Thomas J. McGlone and Ralph N. Schleifer

Thomas J. McGlone (left) of New Jersey was iaWCC president in 1970. Ralph N. Schleifer, Aurora, Ill., was GDCI president from 1969 to 1970.

Ryan Lucchetti, President, PABCO Gypsum
A Company’s Success Resides in the Milestones Reached by its People

Every company strives to be the best at what it does to become successful, but a company’s success doesn’t reside in any singular thing, widget, product or specific event it resides in the people behind it.

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At PABCO Gypsum we believe our success resides in our dedication to building meaningful relationships with our employees, our customers and, of course, our valued partners. Every now and again, we get a unique opportunity to share something special with our partners an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of many for reaching a milestone and being part of something great. AWCI is one of these partners their achievements over the past 100 years are truly special. As we look to the future, we should take the time to look back and reflect on the successes of the past and all those who help achieve it.

Ryan Lucchetti

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On July 1, 1976, the international association of the Wall & Ceiling Contractors merged with the Gypsum Drywall Contractors International, creating the most comprehensive wall and ceiling association in the world. It was called iaWCC/GDCI. Three years later, it was renamed the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries—International. (The letter “I” from “International” was overlooked in the official AWCI acronym in 1976. The name was shortened in 2005 to the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, but the acronym AWCI remained unchanged.)

AWCI Centennial Book

“Diversification is an effective response under any conditions,” said Vernon L. Raymer of Delta Drywall in 1977. “But it should be rational, planned diversification, not a panic response.” Raymer spoke for many. Most firms had been mere plastering contractors or drywall contractors in the 1960s. Now they were interior and exterior finishing contractors. They could take jobs from the slab on up, and they were growing. The next decade would help them—and AWCI—attain new levels of success.

View this decade’s complete content in the Centennial Book’s digital edition.

Spread of metal framing. Engineers used cold-formed steel to develop the low-rise and mid-rise building markets. Steel studs and joists could form a complete structural framework and bear the building’s entire load. “Buildings as tall as four or more stories are now possible,” Construction Dimensions said. Cold-formed steel systems spread throughout the country.

Rise of the modern distributor. Drywall had become a project staple. So had metal studs, self-drilling screws, plasters with lightweight aggregate additives, mechanical pumps, spray guns, fireproofing, suspended ceiling grid and acoustical ceiling tile. The progressive distributor had to diversify and carry these product categories. A flatbed truck hauling bag goods could no longer keep up. The industry’s distributors had to become building materials suppliers.

Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry
Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

In the 1970s, GDCI and iaWCC leaders saw the need to provide unbiased information to the public and industry to address concerns, such as energy shortages, workplace injuries and building safety. In 1977, iaWCC/GDCI established the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. The Foundation’s research efforts led to the publication of many invaluable technical documents. In time, the Foundation set up a technical library and ran a scholarship program.

AWCI: Action

The long-range plan. The three-person staff in Washington, D.C., was overworked. President Thomas J. McGlone had hired a consultant to study CPLIA’s (iaWCC’s) budget, bylaws and operations in 1970. Recommendations included hiring a bookkeeper and bringing the association’s magazine in-house.

Meeting notes from the early 1970s show the Continuing Study Council absorbed with the matter of diversification. By that time, Plastering Industries had been renamed Walls & Ceilings by CPLIA’s board. The new official publication veered, however, from its intended communications goals. “We unhappily find our so-called official publication, Walls & Ceilings magazine … definitely does not represent iaWCC,” said a 1972 report.

Technical Symposiums

iaWCC produced various technical symposiums in the early 1970s, including Performance of Portland Cement Plastering (1970), Sprayed Fireproofing (1971), Exterior Curtain Walls (1971) and Cavity Shaft Walls (1971). Sprayed Fireproofing—developed by James L. Whittaker of San Francisco’s Subcommittee No. 7 of the iaWCC Technical Committee—was the industry’s first-ever on that topic and timely. Contractors expected to perform more than $20 million of sprayed fireproofing work in 1971 alone.

Technical Symposiums

Hence, long-range planning did not begin until late 1972, and it was presented to members at the 58th annual convention in 1975. The plan had 15 actionable categories: communications, conventions, continuing education, labor relations, manufacturer relations, public relations, safety and technical information services to name a few.

Policy Position on Automatic Tools
Policy Position on Automatic Tools

In 1975, iaWCC’s board of directors prepared Resolution No. 2—“a policy position in support of the use of automatic tools in the drywall industry”—for the 58th Annual Convention in Honolulu. The resolution carried. It requested that “the Painters’ International Union and the Plasterers’ International Union be advised of this position and be requested to give their support to same.”

“Optimism about this consolidation.” Eleven contractors representing two wall and ceiling associations had completed the final points of their agreement to merge. Lathing, plastering and drywall contractors were formally united on Saturday morning, May 15, 1976. While the history of the merger of the international association of the Wall & Ceiling Contractors and the Gypsum Drywall Contractors International dates to the 1960s, the new association, iaWCC/GDCI, wouldn’t become official until July 2, 1976.

In the end, the consolidation of iaWCC and GDCI was a success. A survey of the membership reported in the April 1978 Executive Committee minutes showed that consolidation had received an 86 percent favorable rating.

The First AWCI President
The First AWCI President

Robert Watkins (center) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., became AWCI president in 1979. Passing the gavel to him are Richard M. Connor of Nashua, N.H. (left) and John C. Craig of Honolulu, iaWCC/ GDCI co-presidents for the 1978–1979 term.

AWCI: People

High-energy types.
Thomas J. McGlone of Rahway, N.J., competently served as iaWCC president in 1970. A dynamic leader, he infused power and energy into the National Bureau of Lathing and Plastering Inc. as its managing director.

Charles F. Clay of Seattle worked nearly three decades as editor and publisher of the association’s official magazines, Plastering Industries and Walls & Ceilings. In 1975, iaWCC awarded him the E.F. Venzie Award posthumously.

Frank J. Krafft of Krafft-Murphy Company, Alexandria, Va., and Gerold B. Reed Jr. of Eastern Dry-Wall Associates Inc., Lowell, Mass., were “the two men considered most responsible for the successful consolidation of iaWCC and GDCI,” says Construction Dimensions.

E.F. Brady

E.F. Brady, Las Mesa, Calif., was iaWCC/GDCI president in 1978

Reed served as GDCI president from 1968 to 1969, Krafft was iaWCC president from 1973 to 1974. At the annual convention in 1975, Krafft was given a standing ovation for his consolidation efforts, and Reed was given special recognition for his role in the iaWCC and GDCI merger. Both tried to bring the two groups together early. They didn’t let initial failures to consolidate discourage them, but kept pressing forward.

The Association Buys a Building
The Association Buys a Building

In July 1978, iaWCC/GDCI Executive Committee approved the $800,000 purchase of a 27,000-squarefoot building at 25 K St. NE, in Washington, D.C.—11 blocks from the United States Capitol. The deal was completed in 1979. The building, which had tenants on three of four floors, had a replacement value appraisal of $1.3 million, noted Construction Dimensions. The Building Study Committee, chaired by Past President William A. Marek of Houston, solicited $5,000 loans at 7 percent interest from members willing to help refurbish the building.

Vito J. Arsena, president of Acme-Arsena Company Inc., Cleveland, was iaWCC/GDCI president from 1976 to 1977. He told Construction Dimensions in 1975 that change in the industry was just beginning. “There is a whole new concept of contracting being formed, and it’s in its infancy—package bidding, total concept bidding, performance specs, a complete interior-exterior combined into one related area,” he said. The key to success, Arsena said, was being financially responsible and sound: “We’re no longer in the old horse and buggy days of faith and trust,” he said.

Technically capable.
Donald S. Little, founder and president of Donalco Ltd., Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, served on the iaWCC/GDCI Executive Committee as secretary beginning in 1979. Under his tenure as chairman of the association’s Technical Subcommittee No. 4 on sprayed fireproofing, the committee produced an industry standard on spray-on fireproofing and developed the first-ever technical manual on fireproofing.

One More Name Change: AWCI
One More Name Change: AWCI

On July 1, 1979, iaWCC/GDCI became the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries—International. The new name—the result of a 1976 agreement—represented the final step of consolidating all craft and construction disciplines into one organization. “The past of proud factions has gone,” said Joe M. Baker Jr., AWCI executive vice president. “We are finally and truly an industry.”


“Diversification is an effective response under any conditions,” said Vernon L. Raymer of Delta Drywall in 1977. “But it should be rational, planned diversification, not a panic response.” Raymer spoke for many. Most firms had been mere plastering contractors or drywall contractors in the 1960s. Now they were interior and exterior finishing contractors. They could take jobs from the slab on up, and they were growing. The next decade would help them—and AWCI—attain new levels of success.