By Sandy Smith
Ivan Weinstock passed away on Dec. 12 of cancer. Many of you never have heard of him; he was one of those guys who for years worked behind the scenes in the safety industry. He also was one of my mentors, and one of the most charming, competitive, caring and dynamic people I've ever met.
For nearly 40 years, Ivan was a mainstay in the publishing industry, guiding many Penton publications to some of the greatest success they've known. When I first began working at Occupational Hazards in 1990, Ivan was group president of Penton's Service Industries Group, of which Occupational Hazards was a relatively small part. I never could understand why this group president, who had so many responsibilities, took such a keen interest in Occupational Hazards. Then one day, someone let me in on the secret: Ivan had been publisher of Occupational Hazards for many years, and it - and the safety industry - held a place near and dear to his heart.
I was a little afraid of Ivan at that point. The first conference I attended, people asked, "How's Ivan?" a minute after meeting me. "Is he here?" they wanted to know. Ivan was a rock star. Like Madonna and Prince, he didn't need two names. Talk about Ivan and everyone knew whom you were talking about.
Current OH Publisher Stephen Minter, remembering when he started at Penton, had this to say: "When I was hired by OH Editor Peter Sheridan as an assistant editor many years ago, Ivan was publisher of Occupational Hazards and I little realized that I had come to work for one of the most dynamic and respected publishing teams in business-to-business media. While Pete plunged into the world of politics and regulation, Ivan knew the safety industry intimately, spending countless hours to understand the issues affecting his customers ... "
Ivan was more than a publisher, more than a "sales guy." He truly understood and loved the safety industry. He reinforced to me that the editorial content of the magazine should never be a compromise between what's good for business and the truth.
When I think of Ivan, one story stands out. It involves an expense report - my expense report - that included a $600 check for a dinner. At the time the expense report was filed, Occupational Hazards sponsored a recognition program titled "Champions of Safety." And one of the winners - a multinational corporation - was headquartered in a large city. My job was to fly there, take the safety manager to dinner and hand over the award.
Not being familiar with that city, I allowed the safety manager to pick the restaurant, not knowing the restaurant chosen was, at the time, the priciest in the city. When I arrived, the safety manager wasn't there, but had sent the entire corporate safety staff as stand-ins. They arrived early and started drinking, transferring the bar tab to the table. My hand shook as I signed for the check and my knees literally knocked when I was called into my boss' office to explain how a simple dinner for two turned into the most costly dinner ever expensed by an Occupational Hazards editor, and a lowly one at that.
Later that day, I saw Ivan and felt the need to explain myself, knowing the report would catch his eagle eye. I told him the story and he laughed. And laughed. And laughed, as only Ivan could laugh, and then he told me a story.
Back in the 1950s, men wore hats as part of their business attire. A Penton sales rep, new on the job, walked out of his hotel on a blustery day and his hat blew away. He bought a new one, submitting the receipt as part of his expenses. His boss returned the expense report, telling him to "lose the hat," as the company wouldn't pay for a new hat, even if the old one was "lost in the line of duty," so to speak.
So, the sales rep turned in a new expense report ... for the same amount, but with no line in the report for the hat. In response to his boss' questioning look, the man said, "Find the hat."
To this day, I'm not sure what the hat story has to do with safety, or a $600 dinner check. But it cheered me up and made me laugh. And then, Ivan looked at me and said: "I've eaten at that restaurant. Did you enjoy it? Did they enjoy it?" When I told him we had, he said: "That's all that matters. Don't worry."
I honestly can say I always was happy to see Ivan, ready to return the hug he bestowed on me every time he saw me. Through good times and bad, Ivan remained a staunch supporter of the mission of this magazine and the safety industry: to provide the information, equipment and tools necessary to protect the lives and health of workers.
As for Ivan personally, I think Steve Minter said it best: "No one can sum up a life as rich as Ivan's in a few words, but I will remember him for his boundless energy, ready laugh, penchant for late-night Italian food, curiosity and real love of people. He will be remembered - and missed."
My hat's off to you, Ivan.