Dan DeLegge, third from left, this year’s recipient of NAPIM’s TAM Service Award, is joined by his wife, Kristi, as well as John Jilek Sr., at left, and John Jilek Jr., at right.
Mr. DeLegge, who held a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with minors in math and physics, interviewed with Lawter’s Lud Horn and Greg Borucke.Mr. Borucke, now a consultant with Inksolutions LLC, recalled that Mr. DeLegge was extremely nervous.
“He was so nervous when we interviewed him, he couldn’t even draw a chemical structure,” Mr. Borucke said.
Still, Lawter took a chance on Mr. DeLegge, and it certainly paid off. Mr. DeLegge, who is now vice president smoke ’n’ mirrors for Inksolutions LLC, received the prestigious Technical Associate Member (TAM) Service Award fromthe National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) during last fall’s National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) Annual Technical Conference.
As an added achievement, Mr. DeLegge was the recipient of the Chicago Printing Ink Production Club’s (CPIPC) coveted Ink Supplier of the Year honors during its annual Winter Interlude celebration in December.
“I was genuinely shocked and very surprised,” Mr. DeLegge said. “Receiving the Chicago award was a surprise as well.”
For Mr. DeLegge, joining Lawter in 1981 as a bench chemist for varnishes was ideal, as he had the opportunity to learn about the industry from a number of industry leaders.
“Lawter was a very exciting time and a very valuable experience, working with mentors like Lud Horn and Greg Borucke; they were icons of the industry. I also learned a tremendous amount from some of our customers, like George Winandy of SR Premier and John Dyer Sr., who taught me a lot about the industry. Dave Daffern at Hostmann-Steinberg in Canada also helped me a lot.”
There were also some up-and-coming leaders who joined Lawter at the same time as Mr. DeLegge, including John Jilek.
“We had joined Lawter together in 1981 and grew up at Lawter together,” Mr. DeLegge said. “We had made a pact that he would teach me sales if I would teach him the technical side. I was a very good student, and he was the worst student I ever had.”
While at Lawter, Mr. DeLegge rose through the ranks, from R&D through sales and manufacturing. His roles changed frequently: he served as plant manager; had a three-year stint as Canadian general manager in Toronto; and served as product manager for the wax division and the resin division. Mr. DeLegge also would be promoted to director of manufacturing, R&D director for resins, and vice president of technical services.
“It was quite a ride,” he said.
In 1998, Mr. DeLegge was serving in the dual role of vice president of technical services and R&D director of resins when Eastman Chemical acquired Lawter. For Mr. DeLegge, the change to Eastman Chemical’s corporate culture was unsettling.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jilek, who had been president of Lawter before leaving the company in 1996, was looking to start up a varnish plant and had Mr. DeLegge in mind as a partner.
“John asked me if I had wanted to join him in starting up a varnish company, and while I was hesitant, I also saw that the big company culture wasn’t good for me,” Mr. DeLegge said. “There was no opportunity for entrepreneurship, and John was offering me the opportunity to start up our own company.”
By 2001, Inksolutions LLC officially opened its doors, with the ideas of providing excellent service while still having fun.
“We had a great start and great business plan,” Mr. DeLegge said. “We wanted to get back to what made companies successful, which is working closely with customers and providing excellent service and development support.
“Looking back, we’ve continued to stress these things and it’s why we are so successful to this day,” Mr. DeLegge added. “We have maintained our focus on problem solving and thoroughness that we provide our customers.”
Inksolutions LLC has thrived while remaining true to its vision, which has led other Lawter employees to join the company.
“Joining Inksolutions was the best move in my business career,” Mr. DeLegge said. “Being a partner with John is the ultimate business thing. He’s a great business partner and a great friend, and we like to have fun here as well. Greg Borucke and Al Berna came to us as a result of our culture and atmosphere.”
Outside of work, Mr. DeLegge enjoys family life with Kristi, his wife or 26 years, as well as their two daughters, Samantha and Gina. He has varied interests, ranging from the Civil War to dog training; the DeLegges are raising Belgium tervuren and Belgian malinois dogs.
Mr. DeLegge’s colleagues and customers speak highly of their friend.
“We started the company together, and I believe Dan is one of the modern icons of varnish technology and a great supporter of the ink industry,” said Mr. Jilek.
“I have always enjoyed our technical collaborations with Dan,” said Doug Anderson, vice president of operations for Central Ink Corporation “I don't know if there is anybody in the business with more enthusiasm for solving technical problems. You can’t ask for a nicer, more concerned gentleman.”
“He’s a down-to-earth guy and is very customer-oriented,” said Mr. Borucke, who initially interviewed that nervous kid out of college. “He has turned out to be a good guy.”