James La Rocca, chief operating officer for Superior Printing Ink, literally joined the company out of high school in 1969, and never looked back.
“I first became involved in the industry during my senior year in high school,” he said. “I attended what was then called The New York School of Printing in Manhattan. They offered a co-op program whereby students could choose employment over shop studies during their senior year. I passed on employment during the first semester. However, I needed a job during the second semester. There were no jobs available at print shops during the second semester. The guidance counselor asked me if I wanted to learn more about ink. I’ve been with Superior Printing Ink ever since.”
Starting as a color matcher 44 years ago, La Rocca moved up through the ranks, as an ink formulator, a technical service representative and as lead project technician, where he directed his technical staff to develop specialized products, including sublimation, plastisol and decal heat transfer products.
In the late 1970s, La Rocca accepted the position of branch manager at Superior’s newly established operation in Philadelphia. Under his direction, the branch experienced continued growth, and his responsibilities expanded to Southeast regional manager, thereby including seven additional locations.
Success continued, and in 1989, La Rocca was promoted to senior vice president, Southern Region, becoming an officer of Superior and a member of the Management Steering Committee. In 1995, his responsibilities were expanded again, encompassing the entire corporation as a senior vice president. In his leadership role, he directed research, development and manufacturing. In 2006, he was promoted to his current position of COO.
“I’m fortunate to have had many highlights during my career,” La Rocca said. “I started with Superior as a lab trainee in 1969. I’m currently the chief operating officer and work with over 200 fabulous people. Many good things happened to me while traveling this path. I have, and continue to meet, many prominent, intelligent, hard working people in this industry. I love working with and for them and my co-workers.”
Superior Printing Ink is a family-owned company, and La Rocca attributes his success to the people he works with.
“Most of my key influences came from the people I work with or for,” he said. “Superior is a fourth-generation family-owned company, and I have the privilege to work for a great family. My mentor for most of my career is Stanley R. Hittman, who recently retired as executive vice president of Superior. Most of the good things I do I learned from him.”
La Rocca is a strong supporter of industry associations. He is a current member of NAPlM’s Board of Directors, and he has served as secretary treasurer of the Philadelphia Printing Ink Production Club, as a member of the Philadelphia Litho Club, a speaker to the Imprinted Sportswear Association, The Navigators - NY Group, and the Lehigh Valley Litho Club. He is currently a member of the Ink World Magazine editorial advisory board. While in New York City, he worked with students at New York City Community College as an assistant to the adjunct professor on a course on printing ink.
Outside of work, he enjoys spending time outdoors and with his family.
“Outside of work, I love to spend time outdoors,” he said. “I like to hunt, fish and play some golf. I’m fortunate that my three daughters and their husbands live nearby. My wife Linda and I get to see them and our four grandchildren almost every weekend. We attend many of the grandkids’ soccer games and wrestling matches.”
La Rocca said that receiving the Pioneer Award means a great deal to him.
“The people that received this award, past and present, did many good things over a long period of time to earn it,” La Rocca concluded. “I’m very grateful for the nomination, and to the NAPIM committee that voted for me and believe I did some good for our industry and earned it.”