“The one defining characteristic that distinguishes us as humans is our capacity to inspire and be inspired,” wrote Gary Brodsky when he introduced the first inductees to the Baking Hall of Fame. “Inspiration ignites the soul. It is the driving force of the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Inspired by the examples set by bakers and allied tradesmen who came before him, Mr. Brodsky long held the desire to recognize the people who influenced the course of today’s baking industry. He got that opportunity in 2005 when he helped the American Society of Baking (ASB) create the Baking Hall of Fame. The first class of honorees, announced in 2006, included 13 individuals, a baker’s dozen. With this year’s inductees — Ernest Nickles, W. Clark Pulver and Torahiko Hayashi — the total individuals recognized now numbers 50.
Baking & Snack reviewed the significance of this continuing series of awards with Mr. Brodsky, who is chairman of ASB’s Baking Hall of Fame Committee and reveals motives behind the awards and plans for its future. Mr. Brodsky, chairman of ASB’s Baking Hall of Fame Committee, recently retired as vice-president of operations for East Balt, Inc., Chicago. He maintains an active consulting and travel schedule. We caught up with him at home in Jupiter, FL, shortly after he returned from an assignment in Saudi Arabia.
Baking & Snack: What is the purpose of the Baking Hall of Fame?
Gary Brodsky: In 2006, when I chaired ASB, we considered a number of themes for the meeting. I chose “The Heritage of Baking” to recognize the past as it pointed to the future. The Baking Hall of Fame does this.
I’ve been part of the industry since 1970 and was fortunate to meet and, in some cases, work with many of its icons — the pioneers of our modern baking industry. But I noticed that a good number of new people coming into the industry, particularly in recent years, had no idea who these individuals were, how they influenced the industry or their contributions to the business in which they now worked. Most of the iconic names — Arnold, Baird, Fleischmann, Thomas — were just brands on a package to them.
ASB created the Baking Hall of Fame to recognize the contribution such individuals made and to immortalize the people so important to our industry. The companies they founded have mostly been consolidated out of existence. Only their brands remain, but the influence of these individuals continues. Recognizing them is the purpose of the Baking Hall of Fame — remembering and recognizing them so new people can know how the industry started and what its icons contributed.
How do individuals get nominated for the Baking Hall of Fame? Why do people nominate someone for this honor?
Anybody in the baking industry can recommend someone for the Hall. All you have to do is fill in the information sheet that ASB provides. Nomination forms are available on our website, www.asbe.org, and at our annual meeting.
Most of the people doing the nominating are those who have or had established working relationships with the candidate or are family members or members of ASB. We do get some nominations from non-members and from outside the baking industry.
The whole idea is to single out individuals who moved the industry forward, who contributed to its growth.
Nominations can be submitted any time. For the class of 2014, they are due to ASB by early October to give the committee adequate time to fully read and evaluate them.
What advice can you give to someone wanting to nominate an individual for the Hall?
I have one piece of advice: When you nominate someone for the Hall, be specific.
Just saying he or she was “a great human being” or “an inspiring role model” is not enough. Put down in writing what contribution the individual made to the company, to the industry, to the market. How does he or she stand out from his or her peers? What makes him or her different? Why should he or she be immortalized in the Hall?
The more information you give the committee to evaluate, the more we have to go on and the better we can make our decisions. Write as much as you want; there’s never too much information for us.
What are the most important aspects of a person’s career that the committee evaluates when picking inductees?
We recently changed the criteria to add more aspects to evaluate. But what we’re really looking at is the “all around” of the individual. What were his or her contributions to the industry, to his or her people? What were his or her background, education and life’s work? There’s no single thing but how the candidate stands out from the field.
The committee looks for outstanding accomplishments, multiple achievements, inventions, education advancements, new process developments. It’s not just one thing but the sum of outstanding contributions to the industry.
What does this award mean to its recipients? What has it meant to you?
For many honorees and their families and colleagues, this is an emotional event. It’s gratifying to everyone involved to witness fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children and even grandchildren seeing family members being immortalized in the industry. It’s a very emotional time for all and a rewarding time.
By standing at the podium and handing over the award, by seeing these sterling individuals being recognized, I feel that I have been able to contribute something to the industry, too.
Everyone who’s serious about their work wants to give back to the industry supporting them in some way. All these honors are long overdue. And as proof of the Hall’s significance, I’ve observed that the induction ceremony always packs the room at the annual meeting.
Knowing the industry has acknowledged the accomplishments of such worthy individuals makes me feel good. I am very proud that I could help make this happen, to ensure that these people are getting the recognition they deserve and that the industry has embraced them for their efforts. I am proud that ASB contributes such a gift to the industry.
I have one more ambition for the Baking Hall of Fame: to establish a stand-alone building, probably at AIB or Kansas State University, to house the recognition plaques and a museum that displays their work. The plaques currently reside at AIB, and the institute has done a tremendous job displaying them in its lobby. But this would be a separate museum. The project will involve a fund-raising effort and an endowment program that have not yet launched.