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Former National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors CEO Dies

During his long career, Dirk Van Dongen worked to get pro-business legislation passed
NAW Dirk Van Dongen Headshot Main Image
Dirk Van Dongen

Dirk Van Dongen, the former CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) passed away unexpectedly this past weekend. The cause of death was not revealed. According to the Washington, D.C.-based trade association, “[Van Dongen’s] legacy is marked by his unwavering dedication to pro-business policies and his transformative leadership that built NAW into the influential trade association it is today.”

Noted current NAW CEO Eric Hoplin: “I often told Dirk Van Dongen that he was a living legend. Throughout his four-decade tenure, he transformed NAW into a powerhouse in Washington. Dirk mentored generations of trade association leaders, including myself. He played a pivotal role in electing hundreds of members of Congress, all while advising them on the importance of free enterprise. His office walls told the story of his influence, adorned with photos of presidents, prime ministers, and countless leaders of the House and Senate. When he passed the baton of NAW leadership to me, his graciousness and generosity were unparalleled. Dirk was not just a mentor but a friend to me and many others. While he will be deeply missed, the impact he made will resonate for generations.”

[RELATED: National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Promotes Senior Leaders]

Van Dongen started out at NAW back in 1968 when he left AT&T’s marketing department to direct the association’s membership drive via phone solicitations, boosting the association’s membership and setting the stage for his subsequent career.

A staunch proponent of free enterprise and a strong American economy, Van Dongen amplified the voices of scores of American businesses, advocating for government policies that fostered economic growth. He was also a prominent presence in American politics, starting from the Reagan administration. As well as helping to elect pro-business leaders to Congress, he was co-chairman of several finance committees for the election of Republican presidential candidates, and worked to assemble coalitions business interests that were key to passing such federal legislation as the 1986 tax reform bill and the 2001 tax cuts.

He retired in 2020 at the age of 76.

Van Dongen’s survivors include his wife, Maryann; his daughters, Rachel and Marisa; and many friends and mentees.

NAW represents the $8 trillion wholesale distribution industry. The industry employs more than 6 million workers, with 250,000 wholesale distribution companies operating across North America, including all 50 states.

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