The promotional products industry lost one of its great leaders with the passing of David Woods, MAS, on April 27. He was 75. Woods retired from AIA Corporation as CEO in 2016.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, Woods began his career as a management consultant with Deloitte and Touche, and then became CFO at a packaging company before raising the venture capital to start his own soft-drink distribution business. In the early 1990s he was recruited to join distributor Lee Wayne Corporation in a turnaround role; he rebuilt the company and later sold it to HALO (now HALO Branded Solutions) and became executive vice president. He left the company in 2002 and spent a year on PPAI’s staff as COO before joining AIA in 2003.

A dedicated volunteer, Woods served two terms on the PPAI Board of Directors and was chair in 2000-2001. He also served a term on the Promotional Products Education Foundation board of trustees and was chair in 2009-2010, and in 2018 he was inducted into PPAI’s Hall of Fame.

In addition to his long-time leadership in the industry, he was deeply passionate about the arts and helping disadvantaged youth. Since 2008 he had served on the board for the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass, and as a board member and president of the Green Lake Festival of Music, where he headed up a $1 million fundraising campaign. Woods also lent his expertise to the Beaver Brook Association, a 2,000-acre wildlife conservation area in Hollis, New Hampshire, that offers programs for inner-city kids, and the Chicago All Stars, a group in the Chicago Loop area for at-risk youth.

In a January 2018 profile in PPB magazine, in conjunction with his Hall of Fame induction, Woods said his desire to help others was something his parents taught him. “We were rich in everything except money—always rich in love and kindness, and I was taught to help other people. The people who helped me when I was young are gone and I can’t help them—but I can carry on their traditions.”

Former PPAI President and CEO Steve Slagle, who knew Woods for more than 20 years and introduced him at his PPAI Hall of Fame induction in 2018, remembers him as kind, gentle, soft-spoken, caring, giving, bright and generous. “All are adjectives that describe our dear departed friend, David Woods, however, none can adequately convey the degree to which David willingly helped others find jobs, make career transitions, meet personal or professional challenges or simply fulfill their potential. I have so many memories and stories about David from my 20-plus years of knowing him, learning from him and observing his immense skill, talent and intellect. I know how the dictionary defines a Renaissance Man, and I truly believe David meets the definition. He was cultured, educated and proficient in a variety of disciplines.

“David was a special man, a special friend, not just to me, but to hundreds of others who were touched by his kindness, his generosity and his counsel. I’m so going to miss his wit, his laugh, his way of telling a story and his sincere goodness.”

In a statement issued Monday, Matt Gresge, CEO of AIA Corporation, says, “David was one in a million and made an impact on all those who knew him. We were lucky to have him pave the way for AIA in this industry as our longtime leader. He was a true entrepreneur who took a chance on a company called Adventures in Advertising, which, thanks to his vision, would become the strong, thriving corporation that AIA is today. David was a beacon of our industry and helped shape who we are as a company and as individuals. He made an incredible impact on AIA employees and all of the owners and suppliers we serve. I have no doubt his legacy will continue to live on through the strong community he built and entrepreneurial spirit he instilled in each of us. Our hearts and thoughts go out to David’s family.”

Longtime friend and colleague Marc Simon, CEO of HALO Branded Solutions, says, “The entire HALO family is shocked and profoundly saddened by the loss of David Woods, one of our key early leaders. No person in our industry was more affectionately respected and admired than David. Well-traveled, well-read, thoughtful and kindly to all, David had the rare ability to connect with all of us in the manner that resonated most with each of us. He loved all of us, our industry, his three sons and their families, and the Boston Red Sox.”

Woods is survived by three sons, Stephen and wife Mollie; Nicholas and wife Elizabeth; and Ted and six grandchildren, William, Paul, Sara, Ella, Andi and Mack. Services are pending at this time.

PPAI honors Hall of Fame members for their lifetime contributions to the Association and industry by matching industry donations up to $2,500 to fulfill the $5,000 commitment needed to create a Named Scholarship through the Promotional Products Education Foundation. To make a gift to establish a scholarship in Woods’s name, send a check payable to PPEF mentioning David Woods in the memo line and mail it to PPEF, 3125 Skyway Circle North, Irving, Texas 75038. Gifts can also be made online at Click on “donate” and enter “David Woods memorial” in the comments section.