ELKHART — The class of 2015 was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame last night in Elkhart, Indiana, in a gala ceremony before nearly 350 family members, friends, and colleagues from across the country.
The class of 2015 includes:
- Bert V. Alanko, president of MBA Insurance
- Patrica A. Fiederer, from Latham Oneota Homes
- Sherman Goldenberg, publisher of RV Business magazine
- Paul E. Hanser, from HWH Corporation
- Jerry W. James, with Franklin Homes
- Joe Kelly, from the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association
- Richard A. Mendlen, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Marlene A. Sine, owner of Marlene Sine & Associates
- Bill Thomas, founder of Bill Thomas Camper Sales
- Robert West, from Fuqua Homes
Before the induction ceremonies, Hall President Darryl Searer delivered his annual “state of the hall” address.
“I am extremely happy to report to you that your hall has continued to improve financially for the third straight year and is now in the best shape it has ever been,” said Searer. “It also is my pleasure to report to you that this year the hall of fame has continued its upward trend of improving its overall operations.”
Searer displayed a graph of the distribution of funds that show that nearly 60 percent of income goes toward debt reduction with remaining committed to operations at the hall.
Searer reported that the hall’s debt has been reduced from $5.5 million three years ago to approximately $1.4 million today.
This progress is due in part to the generous support of ongoing debt elimination campaigns kicked off the Kevin Clayton Debt Elimination Campaign for members of the manufactured housing industry and the RV industry debt elimination campaign within the next three to five years. Each campaign is committed to raising $1 million each.
The MH industry has challenged the RV industry to match their campaign which has already received gifts and pledges for over $570,000. The RV industry’s gifts and pledges nearly $100,000, the press release noted.
However, slides show at the presentation last night indicated that the RV debt elimination campaign raised $545,643 while the amount contributed by the manufactured housing industry’s contributions were $115,259.
Searer reported that total income for the hall of fame was $2,750,789, of which $1,583,196 was used to pay down loans. He stated several times that the RV/MH Hall of Fame is run by two paid staff members. But, a slide shown in the presentation indicated that staff wages totaled $365,856.
RV Daily Report has asked for clarification on that number as well as the total amounts raised in the separate industry campaigns.
Another bright spot is that two years ago, the hall borrowed $600,000 from the bank to pay off the commitment made to David Woodworth for the purpose of acquiring his famous antique RV collection. Searer said that debt now stands at $75,000 and he expects to eliminate that debt within the next few months.
“So as we move forward, the future looks extremely bright and I’m confident we’ll reach our goal,” he explained.
Searer presented the annual Hall of Fame Spirit Award to Don Magary, a hall of fame member and publisher of RV News. The Spirit Award is an annual award to honor the person who has demonstrated his or her desire and dedication to further the legacy of our great heritage, the release noted.
RV industry inductees
Alanko was the first person to be inducted into this year’s class of honorees. In a career of nearly four decades, Alanko developed the first viable and sustainable RV rental insurance for rental dealers so they could rent RVs to consumers without the burden of total liability, the release noted.
Among his achievements, Alanko established and hosts the annual MBA Rental School, tailored to dealers and individuals planning on a starting an RV rental business. Since its inception in 1999, the school has educated approximately 1,000 students. For 20 years, he served as chairman of the RV Dealers Association’s RV Rental Association. He earned the RVDA Chairman’s Service Award and also RVDA’s highest honor, the James B. Summers Award.
Alanko accepted the award noting it was recognition of what MBA Insurance has done for the betterment of the RV industry.
“It is hard to believe that 37 years ago, that we were sitting at a Coco’s in Denver, and thought we had a better way of insuring rental motorhomes,” said Alanko. “It is the success of the MBA system for insuring smaller as well as larger dealer fleets that has allowed many to start and grow a rental operation. It allowed retail customers to experience the lifestyle for the first time by renting RVs, which resulted in a lot of RVs being sold.”
He highlighted the accomplishments of several RV dealers and rental operations, which started with a handful of rental RVs and grew into big businesses.
“I am hoping this isn’t the end of a career because I am having too much fun,” he added. “This is a fun industry, with fun people, and our customers are fun. It’s just fun. For getting this kind of honor for having so much fun, is unbelievable.”
Goldenberg was recognized for his tireless support and promotion of the RV industry and his journalistic honesty and integrity, the release noted. He joined RV Business magazine in the mid-1980s as Midwest editor and worked his way up to become editor and then publisher. He is now co-owner and publisher of RV Business and Woodall’s Campground Management magazines.
He is the only RV trade journalist to receive both The RV Industry Association’s David Humphreys RV Unity Award and the Distinguished Service in Journalism Award. He has been the driving force of the successful RV Industry Power Breakfast and helped create the “RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards” program, developed to recognize the nation’s best RV dealers.
Goldenberg said he was reluctant to accept the honor because, “the whale that shoots its spout is the one that gets harpooned.”
“I came to grips with this whole concept of doing a presentation because I thought of all the friends I have made over the years,” he explained, noting that his career took him from a hometown reporter, to a freelance writer, to a magazine editor and finally a publisher.
“There are so many people working in this industry who are members of an elite fraternity of professionals that this is a huge honor,” he added. “During the day, we may be fierce competitors seeking to take market share from each other and making a profit. But, when it comes to charity, the support among manufacturers and suppliers is unreal. We see each other at restaurants and at grocery stores and really are a tight knit community.”
Goldenberg surprised the audience by introducing a bagpipe player who performed at many RV Business functions, who treated the audience with a resounding rendition of Amazing Grace.
Hanser is an engineer, inventor, innovator and a manufacturer of quality products that is unparalleled in the RV industry, the release noted. He pioneered using computerized hydraulics to level RVs, and has developed many more quality products since 1967, and holds more than 56 patents. His volunteer works include writing and editing a hydraulics manual for the RVIA and was instrumental in helping the RVIA develop the CAN specifications and language. He also provided training for thousands of technicians in basic and advanced hydraulics as well as electronics.
Universally known and respected for this honesty, fairness and hard work, Paul Hanser is thought of by many in the industry as an engineering rock star and a visionary entrepreneur, the release added.
Hanser credited his wife of 51 years for her support in the early years when she really didn’t understand what he was trying to do, and God for making things happen, such as a chance meeting with people at Winnebago who wanted him to create a leveling system for motorhomes.
“In those days, people were willing to take a chance with someone they didn’t know and a company they never heard of with a new product,” he said. “It says a lot for this industry. I just wish our children could have the opportunity to do what I did.”
As the first RV industry woman manufacturer’s agent, Marlene Sine introduced thousands of products to the industry by educating and training others on how to promote products to the distributor, dealer and consumer. In her more than 50-year career, she volunteered thousands of hours to serve and support many industry associations such as Warehouse Distributors Association, RV Aftermarket Association, Michigan Association of RVs and Campgrounds and RVIA,
She’s a driving force of the professionalism in today’s aftermarket. In addition to being manufacturer’s agent, she’s also an aftermarket parts and accessories store owner and developed new products for the industry as a supplier. Sine earned the respect of her colleagues as a person with the highest degree of honesty and integrity, the release noted.
“This is truly a great honor to receive the most prestigious award in the RV industry,” she said. “It has inspired me to reflect on years past.”
She noted that her early experiences led her to start a successful woman-owned business in the industry. “This has been quite a career. To me, every product was a challenge, so I wanted to do my best to help the supplier, the distributors, the dealers and consumers.”
As founder of Bill Thomas Camper Sales in St. Louis, Thomas has been a leader in the St. Louis RV community helping organize and manage the Missouri RVDA and the St. Louis RV dealers. His more than 48 years as a dealer pays tribute to his integrity, and respect he’s earned among the thousands of customers he’s served over the years, the release noted.
His volunteer work through RVDA is nearly unprecedented. He has held virtually every elected position within the association including a term as national chairman. He is one of the co-founders of the RVDA Education Fondation. RVDA honored Thomas with its highest recognition bestowing upon him the prestigious James B Summer Award.
“I would like to congratulate all the inductees tonight, and I know they feel the same way I do that this is a great honor,” said Thomas.
After noting that his granddaughters asked him what he did to deserve induction in the hall of fame, he recited a few things. But, later he reflected on what the RV industry has done for him and his family.
“There is a reason I am standing here today, and that’s because a young girl changed her name to Nancy Carol Thomas,” he added, honoring his wife.