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Obituary: Steve Slack

Steve Slack, Counselor’s 1977 Man of the Year, died Saturday in Winter Park, FL, at the age of 78. Slack founded distributor Marquis Specialty Advertising in 1965 and sold the company to Geiger (asi/202900) two decades later, remaining as president. CEO Gene Geiger called Slack a “genuine original.”

“He was smart, irreverent and self-confident,” Geiger told Counselor. “He was one of the first people to exploit the creative potential of our medium, allowing him to collect a room full of PPAI Pyramids and other marketing awards over the years.”

Slack’s innovative ideas inspired generations of business owners, and led to plenty of fun memories. His wife Betty remembers partying at the Cheyenne Saloon in Orlando where Slack would bring in cheerleaders and marching bands for the “Zonies,” an annual rally designed to sell the end zone seats for the Citrus Bowl.

“You would pay for the seats and get a plastic bag, a cap and a cup,” Betty told Counselor. “We’d have all these sponsors giving away prizes and everybody filling up their cups. It was such fun.”

A pioneer of ad specialty education, Slack cofounded the first Education Day in 1976 for PPAI’s annual trade show in Dallas. He also co-authored Specialty Advertising: New Dimensions in Creative Marketing, the premiere textbook for breaking into and succeeding in the industry. Slack, a member of the PPAI Hall of Fame, later served on the PPAI Board of Directors from 1977 to 1981, spending two years as vice chairman.

Sandy Gillman, owner of Gillman Advertising Specialties representing Counselor Top 40 Distributor The Vernon Company (asi/351700), credits Slack with changing her life. She sold him a typewriter in the early 1980s, and by 1983, Slack had taken her under his wing to learn the fundamentals of the promotional products industry.

“I tried to leave after a month but he wouldn’t let me,” Gillman told Counselor. “I was convinced it wasn’t the career for me. But he wouldn’t accept that. He was determined that I was going to be successful. He always took such pride in my accomplishments long after he was out of the business.”

In his later years, Slack shared his experience as a columnist for Counselor. “He worked hard and played hard,” said Betty, who was married to Slack for 29 years. “He liked talking to people and was a man who would do anything for you.”

Services will be held Thursday, June 30, at Carey-Hand Cox Parker Funeral Home, 1350 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789. Visitations start at 6 p.m., followed by a service at 7 p.m.