On May 16, Richard Ebel, a PPAI Hall of Fame inductee in 2008, passed away at the age of 89. Ebel served as director of marketing communications for the Association from 1969 through 1995.

A staple of PPAI’s efforts for over a quarter century and a veteran of the promotional products industry for even longer, Ebel received a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attained a master’s in public relations while in his role at PPAI.

In the 1980s, Ebel proposed resurrecting PPAI’s long-dormant research program. His reasoning was that the Association should be able to help support members’ sales efforts by providing quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of promotional products. He did not want the data to be manipulated and worked with the academic community to create avenues for information to be scrutinized by research-oriented educators. While it has evolved greatly since Ebel’s tenure,the program still traces back to his doggedness. 

Ebel created and implemented the National Collegiate Competition in Promotion Marketing, which he would later call one of his greatest sources of pride. He raised the credibility of the PPAI Pyramid Awards by persuading the Awards Committee to eliminate a prior approach that typically gave awards to nearly every nominee.

In the 1970s, Ebel was assigned to help establish and manage the industry’s Hall of Fame program, which he himself was inducted into decades later, in 2008.

“During the many years of dedication to our Association, Rick wore many caps (all imprinted) and found most of them fit well when it came to what it took to promote our industry to our end users, suppliers, distributors and just the general public,” wrote H.D. “Joe” Stratton, a former PPAI Board Chair, when he nominated him for the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Those close to Ebel called him “Rick.” He was born in Muskegon, Michigan. He married his wife Nancy (Nan) in 1956. Ebel had two children, Bob Ebel and ChallenBomont, and numerous grandchildren.

PPAI’s former Director of Publications, Tina Berres Filipski, who collaborated often with Ebel, said, “Rick was a great friend and very talented individual who brought incredible value to PPAI’s publications through his research and writing. For more than a decade after he retired from PPAI, he wrote regularly for PPB on a variety of business topics—most importantly he contributed valuable data and insights to our annual distributor sales volume cover story.

“He also researched and wrote PPAI At 100, the book we published in 2003 commemorating PPAI’s centennial anniversary. He was incredibly intelligent, and his writing reflected that. But he was also a very funny guy with a smile that lit up the room. We have all lost a remarkable human being who gave so much to our industry. He will be missed very much.”

Margaret Custer Ford, founder of MARCO-Ideas Unlimited, remembers the in-person contributions of Ebel.

“Rick Ebel was responsible, along with Bill Gregg, for upgrading the professionalism of the many industry practitioners who attended the early week-long CAS seminars,” Ford says. “When I chaired the Awards Committee, I remember the care Rick took with his responsibilities in working with the many entries in Pyramid campaigns, and the coveted Supplier Stars.”

Anyone who walks into PPAI’s headquarters in Irving, Texas will see promotional products from generations past encased in glass, some dating back to the 1800s. PPAI employees walk past them every day. Ebel found those bits of memorabilia in flea markets.

“I take pride in the display of antique promotional products that is featured in the lobby of the Association’s headquarters,” Ebel once said of the tokens of his legacy to the Association.