Printing Week Dinner Is Celebrated in New York City
Monday, January 24, 2005
By Patrick Henry January 24, 2005 -- The man in charge of running New York City’s Printing Week Dinner is no longer a printer. Business reverses prompted Joe Prestino, co-chairman of the event’s planning committee, to close a family-owned graphics company in Manhattan several years ago. These days Prestino—far from alone among his peers in having been hit hard during one of the roughest periods in the history of New York’s printing industry—makes his living in commercial real estate. Lester F. Samuels (Pictorial Offset Corp.), center, accepts the Florence and Leo Joachim Award for distinguished industry service with congratulations from the 2003 winner, Michael Brice (Superior Printing Ink),left; and Michael Mugavero, KBA North America, a corporate sponsor of the Printing Week Dinner. Pulling off a grand annual fete like the Printing Week Dinner can be a sore trial even for an organizer of Prestino’s limitless energy and ebullience. Whenever more than 250 people gather, as they did at a midtown Manhattan restaurant on Jan. 18, to honor the leading lights of industry groups and clubs from throughout the metro area, managing the complicated protocol is like sorting a mound of Pi’d type *. Why then would Prestino, whose professional interests lie elsewhere, continue to invest so much time and effort in staging a printers’ party? Because, like the patron saint of Printing Week, he cherishes his roots all the more for having moved beyond them. “If it was good enough for Ben Franklin to be a printer,” declared Prestino as he called the assembly to order, “it’s good enough for me.” Franklin, at about the same point in life as Prestino, left the printing business for pursuits that emblazoned his name into American history. But, as every printer knows, Franklin always placed his first vocation ahead of every other aspect of his genius—even to the extent of ordering the inscription, “Benjamin Franklin — Printer” for his tombstone. Prestino’s deep personal reverence for the traditions of Franklin remains the shared spirit of the Printing Week Dinner, a 77-year-old celebration hosted in New York by the city’s chapter of the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen. The travails of 9/11 and ensuing economic hardship have not hurt attendance at the event, which remains the only such affair to be endorsed by all of the metro area’s professional and fraternal groups for graphics personnel. The Rewards of Fellowship On Jan. 18, many of these groups presented Fellowship Awards to their outstanding members in honor of the late Joseph A. Fielder, Prestino’s predecessor as the dinner’s chief promoter. A judging panel representing the groups also presented the prestigious Florence and Leo Joachim Award to Lester F. Samuels, a printer whose chairmanship of the region’s largest trade association is seen as an emblem of the industry’s survival in the face of very long odds in the metro area. Strangers to the industry might have found the evening a bit quirky, as when Jim Prendergast, a past director of several clubs, prayed in his invocation, “Help me avoid making Pi of my life, and guide me safely around the yawning mouth of the hell box *.” Outsiders also would have had to be told that Printing Week always contains the Jan. 17 birthday of Franklin, whose Tercentenary will be celebrated in 2006. But at no point did the ceremonies overlook the present realities of the business, which have been stark for everyone who has manufactured, sold, or bought printing services in the metro area over the last five years. This was especially true in the presentation of the Joachim Award to Samuels, who has worked as hard to preserve the Association of Graphic Communications (AGC), his trade group, as he has worked to transform Pictorial Offset Corp., his company, into one of the most prominent family-owned printing businesses in the country. With his brothers Gary and Donald, Samuels co-manages Pictorial Offset, a Carlstadt, NJ, commercial printing firm with 275 employees and $65 million in annual revenues. When the brothers took control of the company in 1980, its workforce was about 10 percent of its size today; sales were in the $1 million range. In addition to driving the growth of the business, the Joachim honoree also helped the company achieve a singular distinction: becoming the world’s first business to win certification from the International Standards Organization for ISO 9002 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environmental) standards compliance. His Other Full-Time Job In his acceptance remarks, Samuels said that soon after beginning his three-year term as chairman of AGC’s board of directors in 2000, he lost any illusion he might have had that the post would merely be ceremonial. The 2005 winners of the Joseph A. Fielder Fellowship Awards pose with officials of the Printing Week Dinner committee. Seated from left: Chuck Polle (Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association of New York); Nina Wintringham (Partnership in Print Production); Yadira Umana-Arakcheyev (New York Chapter of Printing House Craftsmen); and Alice Lynch (New Jersey Chapter of Printing House Craftsmen). Standing from right: Emma Serra Green (president, New York Chapter); John Rutledge (Metro New York Printing Ink Association); Walter Morris (Printing Teachers Guild of New York); Dave Albrecht (Mid-Hudson Graphic Arts Association); Jim D’Andrea (Printing Supply Salesmen’s Guild of New York); and Vincent DiPalma and Joe Prestino, co-chairs, Printing Week Dinner committee. Not in photo: Fellowship winners John Marino (Advertising Production Club of New York) and Nicholas J. Patrissi (Association of Graphic Communications). AGC, the regional affiliate of Printing Industries of America for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, was struggling to remain afloat as many of its member companies closed or combined with other companies in a recession that had taken hold in that year. Then came the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, 2001—a catastrophe that shut down many AGC members for weeks, and from which some did not recover. Samuels said that as the leader of the beleaguered association, which was organized in New York City following the Civil War, “I spent 40 to 50 hours a week working to ensure that I would not be the final chairman of AGC after 110 years.” His efforts and those of other AGC board members have paid off. Today the group is on firm financial footing with a new structure and a stronger set of capabilities for advancing the interests of the industry throughout the region. Samuels thanked Susie Greenwood, president of AGC, and her entire staff team for their steadfast support in the difficult years. Today, he said, printers in the metro area can be proud to tell their story of survival even though their ranks have thinned. “Unfortunately, our industry is getting smaller,” he acknowledged. “But, at the end of the day, printing is still the most powerful medium, and New York is still the capital of the graphic arts.” *Note: In the hot-metal days, a “printer’s Pi” was a jumble of type from an accidental spill. To “Pi” a type form was to suffer the ultimate accident, one that would force the job to be reset. The pile of useless Pi would be thrown into the “hell box” to be melted down and reused.