Industry Mourns Passing of H. Howard Flint II

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 10.25.05

Industry leaders and friends alike remember H. Howard Flint II, chairman of Flint Ink, as the ultimate people person and friend.

Throughout his 40-year career in the ink industry, H. Howard Flint II demonstrated leadership, integrity, a strong business sense and a warm personal regard for his colleagues, employees and customers. The chairman and retired CEO of Flint Ink Corporation passed away on June 14, 2005 after a brief illness. He was 66.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Flint was the grandson of the corporation’s founder, H. Howard Flint. He worked at the family company during college and, after earning his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton Business School, he began his full-time career at Flint Ink in 1964, learning the business from his grandfather, father, Edgar, and his uncle, Robert (R.H.) Flint.

Mr. Flint was elected president and COO of Flint Ink Corporation in 1988, and chairman and CEO in 1992. In January 2005, Mr. Flint retired as CEO, assuming the position of non-executive chairman of the board of directors. An avid fisherman, boater and hunter, Mr. Flint had spent his brief retirement pursuing the activities he enjoyed, but remained active in setting the course of the company and meeting with customers.

He is survived by his sister, Marilyn Flint; his brother, David B. Flint (Amber); three daughters, Martha Kistler (David), Heather Putz (Michael), and Mary Pardi (Chris); and nine grandchildren.

"Howard played a big role in my life,” said David B. Flint, Flint Ink’s executive vice president. “We worked together and we vacationed together. We did everything together, whether it was traveling, hunting, fishing or boating. It’s going to leave a big void in my life.”

A Memorial service was held June 17 at Kirk in the Hills church, Bloomfield Hills, MI. Contributions may be made to the WMU Foundation, Gift Processing, 1903 W. Michigan, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5403, Contributions may be sent to Department of Paper Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Imaging (Imaging Program); Kirk in the Hills Church, 1340 West Long Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302; or Angels’ Place, which provides homes and care for developmentally challenged adults, 15140 Lahser Road, Southfield, MI 48034.

The Ultimate People Person
Under Mr. Flint’s leadership, the corporation more than quadrupled in size, reaching its present annual sales of $1.4 billion. Flint Ink expanded into the international marketplace and moved into digital and printed electronics technologies. The company remains the largest privately-owned printing ink manufacturer in the world.

While all who knew Mr. Flint spoke of his tremendous business acumen, it was his devotion to people that really stands out.

“The one thing that sticks out in my mind was Howard’s love of humanity,” said Dave Frescoln, Flint Ink’s vice chairman and CEO. “We all go to business school and learn about managing assets. However, very little is taught about dealing with other people, but that is what being with Howard for 14 years taught me – respect for others and being sensitive to the needs of employees, customers and suppliers on a personal level. He personalized his relationships with others, and that is why Howard was so loved in our industry.

“During the last several days of his life, Howard made a point to touch base with a lot of people,” Mr. Frescoln said. “He kind of knew what was going to happen, and he wanted to leave everyone on a positive note.”

“When he called me the Sunday before he passed away, we talked about old times and our friendship, and I told him he was always a fighter,” said Edward E. Barr, retired chairman, president and CEO of Sun Chemical. “Howard asked my wife Nancy and I to come up and visit him after his treatments were finished, so his death came as an unbelievable shock.”

“Howard was a great friend,” Mr. Barr said. “We spent our adult lives competing against each other in the ink and pigment business. We became good friends, and often would visit each other.  For me, one of the great things about the ink business is that Howard and I became such close friends. He was a great guy, and we’re going to miss him a lot.”

“There wasn’t anybody who didn’t like him,” said W. Rucker Wickline, president of CDR Pigments & Dispersions. “He was a wonderful individual. He had time for the little guy, and he would stop to talk with everybody and always say a kind word. Howard loved to talk about the industry, and he would call and we would talk for hours. He was the ultimate people person.”

It is a clear sign of Mr. Flint’s personality that his fellow ink industry leaders developed the utmost respect and friendship, regardless of competition.

Harvey Brice, managing director of Superior Printing Ink, first met Mr. Flint at the 1969 NAPIM convention, and they quickly became friends.

“Howard and I grew up together in the industry,” said Mr. Brice. “He was a true friend. He had a sparkle about him, a spontaneity, and he was a real people person.”

“Howard had quite a zest for life,” said Ron Baker, president of US Ink. “He was an extremely hard worker and related really well with everyone. The ink industry has lost a real leader.”

“Howard Flint was one of the ink industry’s greatest leaders,” said Wes Lucas, Sun Chemical’s chairman, president and CEO. “He was a visionary and had a remarkable passion for driving innovation in our industry. As a member of many industry associations, Howard was one of the largest contributors to our industry. He was a personal friend and will be greatly missed.”

“During my involvement in the ink industry, more than 30 years, I have come to know and respect many entrepreneurs who either started or inherited a family business and grew it based on their flair, hard work and vision,” said Henri Dyner, Sun Chemical’s former president and CEO. “Most of these entrepreneurs recognized that as the business reached a certain size, they had to change the way they managed the business. They had to bring new technologies and new management styles to the company. Most chose the route of selling their business to global competitors.

“Howard, I admired, because he was unique in terms of having a global vision, understanding that the family business needed outside input,” Mr. Dyner said. “Ten years ago, he brought in an outside professional manager as president, as well as an outside professional board. This took courage and vision. He had both, and as a result built the largest privately-owned global ink company. For this I admired him and respected him. The industry will miss him.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Flint was active in ink and printing industry trade associations. He served as treasurer of the Gravure Association of America (GAA) and as a trustee of the Gravure Education Foundation, and was named Gravure Person of the Year in 1998 by the GAA. Mr. Flint also was a member of the Western Michigan University Foundation Board for five years, and he served on the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Colleges Foundation.

Mr. Flint served as president of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) from 1989-91, and he received NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 1991. In 1999, Mr. Flint received the Ault Award, the highest honor bestowed by NAPIM, in recognition of his contributions to the ink industry.

“Howard had a visible presence on the supplier, ink and customer sides of the business, and he was thought of well by all,” said Jim Coleman, NAPIM’s executive director. “Howard was a friend and a strong supporter of the industry.”

“When I became executive director of NAPIM, Howard was the president for the first two years, and I enjoyed those years very much,” said Jim Sutphin, former NAPIM executive director. “Howard was down to earth, and he was a good guy to work with.”

As a final reflection of the kind of person Mr. Flint was, Mr. Wickline told a story that showed so much about Mr. Flint’s character.

“A few months ago, I got a call from Howard, and he said he wanted me to put two dates in my calendar,” Mr. Wickline said. “One was for a retirement party he wanted to hold for me in December. The other date had to do with Flint Ink presenting watches to employees who reach 25 years service. Howard told me not to let anyone schedule my 25-year watch presentation, which takes place during June, during the week of June 6 because he had a commitment that week, and he wanted to come to Elizabethtown and personally present my watch to me.

“When Howard passed away on June 14, my wife Letha and I drove to Bloomfield Hills to attend the memorial service, and then drove home that Friday night. On Saturday, I was scheduled to fly to the CPMA Annual Meeting with Dave Frescoln on the company plane, and I stopped into the office to take care of some business. When I went in, sitting on my desk was a beautiful box, wrapped in white paper with a big blue bow. It didn’t dawn on me until I opened the box that it was my 25-year watch.

“When R.H. Flint died, he left me his watch, as a father would a son,” Mr. Wickline said. “And in his own way, Howard left me my 25-year watch. I have to admit that I cried when I opened the box. It was so Howard.”

“Howard had a lot of friends; customers and competitors alike loved him,” David B. Flint said. “He was an icon in the industry, and he’s going to be missed by everybody.”

“He had a passion for the business, and that really drove him,” Mr. Frescoln concluded. “Many, many years from now, people will still be telling Howard Flint stories. He will be remembered, and his spirit will live on.”