George Gecowets, former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), passed away on Dec. 6, 2022, at his home in Leo, Indiana. He was 89.
Gecowets played an instrumental role in developing and promoting the field of logistics management and then supply chain management. He joined the industry association that grew into CSCMP—the National Council of Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM)—in 1964, one year after it was founded, and served as a board member in the late 1960s. In 1970, he became its first full-time executive director, a role he stayed in until he retired in 2001. Over the years, Gecowets helped NCPDM evolve and grow, first into the Council of Logistics Management (CLM) and then into CSCMP. During his tenure, the Council grew to include 5,000 members.
“The logistics profession would not be where it is today without his continuous dedication and valuable advice and counsel,” said Mark Baxa, current president and CEO of CSCMP.
Gecowets was the first to admit that creating a professional association from scratch was not always easy. “When you look back, it looks like all this was well planned and everything fell into place. It didn't,” he said in a 2013 interview looking back on the history of CSCMP and the profession. “There was an awful lot of confusion. We didn't know what we didn't know. We didn't know what made a professional association.”
But out of that initial chaos, eventually sprouted the concepts of logistics and then supply chain management. “We really didn't have a profession back then,” said Gecowets in the same interview. “As I look back on what happened in each decade, we really created a profession as well as built a professional association.”
Rick Blasgen, president and CEO of CSCMP from 2005–2021, remembers Gecowets as “the consummate professional,” who was always warmly welcoming new individuals to the association.
“His impact was felt over decades,” says Blasgen. “He was there when the Council went from NCPDM to CLM, which was a reflection of the growing discipline and its impact on modern business, as well as its connection to the academic and young professional communities.”
A key part of Gecowets’ vision for the Council was its role in connecting the academic and professional communities. He helped establish the organization’s Educator’s Conference and awarded the first contracts for the association’s own research. He played a key role in establishing research grants, scholarships, and career awareness programs, including student internships and an employment clearinghouse service.
Supply chain author, expert, and consultant Cliff Lynch remembers Gecowets as a modest and understated man who was an adept diplomat and able to manage and bring together some of the larger egos who helped to shape the early days of the profession. “He managed to keep the practitioners and educators pretty much on the same page,” he said.
According to Lynch, Gecowets would do anything to help a member. “What I remember most about George is all he did for me,” said Lynch. “He developed an early friendship with me when I was young and just getting started. He helped me navigate the industry, and he published my first book.”
Prior to joining CSCMP, Gecowets worked as the editor of Transportation and Distribution Management, a monthly trade magazine, and managed a company in Columbus, Ohio, that used computer technology to control and pay freight charges.
In recognition of his efforts, Gecowets was honored with CSCMP's Distinguished Service Award in 1988 and was inducted into the CSCMP Supply Chain Hall of Fame at its founding in 2016. But awards and honors were never important to Gecowets, according to those who knew him well. He always preferred that the attention be on CSCMP’s members, while he served in the background.
“Without ever wanting to be on stage or in the limelight, George presided over the growth and development of the group now called CSCMP,” recalled Ken Ackerman, long-time industry consultant and author. “No one in the field has done more to stimulate its growth and prestige.”
Lynch concurs. “He was dedicated to that job and that organization more so than anyone I have ever seen with an occupation,” he said. “He and his wife Shirley lived and breathed NCPDM.”