Carol L. Christison, who over the course of her 31 years of leadership built the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) into one of the industry’s most well respected trade associations, died on March 4, 2014.
As one of the charter recipients of Progressive Grocer’s first-ever Top Women in Grocery awards program in 2007, Christison replaced retiring executive director, Willard T. Reese, at IDDBA’s forerunning organization, International Cheese & Deli Association, in December of 1982.
Christison joined the organization from an executive position with the American College of Sports Medicine, to avoid relocating her family, and quickly embraced a new vision of the association as the essential resource for relevant information and value-added services for the dairy, deli, and bakery categories.
Starting with only a part-time bookkeeper, Christison nurtured IDDBA to become a staff of nearly 30 employees and grew its corporate membership from 100 to 1,500, and from less than 1,000 attendees to an average of nearly 9,000 at its annual seminar and expo that takes place in June each year.
Having served on industry committees, including Random-Weight UPC and Traceability, Christison’s voluntary roles were testaments to her tireless dedication and commitment to retailers, distributors, brokers, manufacturers and others who share a common purpose to better the industry.
Christison also dramatically transformed the association’s organizational structure to meet new demands and opportunities while enhancing self-sufficiency. Renowned for her creativity, humor and quick wit, Christison’s annual industry trends presentation was always a highlight of IDDBA’s yearly June confab, as were her abilities to create a top-notch program for the annual event, for which she was also responsible for leading the annual research study and writing key promotional pieces.
Christison’s daughter, Lucie Arendt, IDDBA’s SVP and one of its first employees, noted the association executive’s abilities to build “an effective, committed team and our operations have grown and improved every year, thanks to her inspiring, innovative leadership. We will miss Carol’s professionalism, creative mind and friendship.”
'A Woman to Reckon With'
When introducing Christison at the organization’s annual meeting last year, Voni Woods, IDDBA’s 2013 board chairman and Giant Eagle’s senior deli director, called Christison, "A leader and visionary and disciplined strategic thinker. You are amazingly perceptive about people and talent. You are a woman to reckon with in the industry of leaders and you do it with such grace and confidence…always with that humor of yours, which is scaring me because I ‘get it.’ You have been a mentor and role model and such an inspiration to many, including me. I am grateful to know you, thankful that the Lord has watched over you and look forward to your next 30 years.”
William Klump, IDDBA’s current board chairman and Butterball’s SVP of marketing, concurred: "We will most assuredly miss her professionalism and her friendship.” In a recent letter to the board, Klump said: "We are grateful for all that Carol has accomplished in her 30 years of service. She has been a key factor in the growth and success of the association. Carol has been at the center of the IDDBA’s transformation into a leading organization, benefitting the whole industry."
Christison is survived by daughter, Lucie (Norm) Arendt, and son David. Her eldest son, Jim, passed away in 2013. Visitation is set for March 12, with a Celebration of Life service on March 13. Full details can be found here.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the UW-Madison’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology research fund which supports research in gynecologic cancers. The address is: UW Foundation Fund #12902096, Lock Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807.