Founder of Des Plaines company dies
Clarence Schawk, the founder and chairman of SGK, Inc., a global brand development company based in Des Plaines, has died.
Schawk passed away Sept. 20. He was 88.
A former Park Ridge resident, Schawk lived for the last 25 years in Lake Geneva, where he owned and operated the Geneva Inn.
He was known throughout the brand development and packaging industry as an innovator and visionary.
Schawk started SGK 61 years ago in the basement of his aunt's home. Just one day after his wedding, he and his wife, Marilyn, used $500 from their wedding gifts to start their own platemaking operation.
At the time, Schawk had been working for a Chicago printing company, which he joined after serving as a Marine in the Asiatic Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Okinawa, during World War II.
"In the '60s and '70s, companies like my dad's were doing mostly print ads and catalog work, but he focused on packaging, and that's what made us survive today," says his son, David, a Barrington resident who serves as the company's CEO.
"In packaging, everything is customized, whether on cans or on cardboard," he added, "and those individualized requirements were what we specialized in."
Some of Schawk's early packaging clients included Kraft Foods and Sara Lee, when its designers worked directly with the consumer goods' marketing departments and not through a printer.
When David Schawk became involved in the mid-1990s, he moved the company further into marketing strategy, helping clients create brand value and brand recognition, which would draw customers to choose the product off the shelf.
Clarence Schawk remained active in the business, overseeing its acquisitions, his son said, including valuing companies and helping to negotiate their sales.
"Through these acquisitions, we've been able to move into brand strategy and design work," David Schawk says. "Over the years, we've become the second largest creative agency for packaging design in the country."
In fact, over the last 60 years, the company has grown to more than 3,600 employees offering services from more than 150 locations and in more than 26 countries, David Schawk said. Its customers now include some of the world's leading consumer goods retailers, as well as life sciences companies, and more than 25 Fortune 100 companies.
The company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1995. Last year, in celebration of the company's 60th anniversary, Clarence Schawk and his family rang the stock exchange's opening bell.
Away from the business world, Schawk worked to improve life for the less fortunate, especially children. The Clarence W. and Marilyn G. Schawk Family Foundation has been involved with many organizations, including Chicago Lutheran Educational Fund, United Way, National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, National Foundation for Abused and Neglected Children, Neediest Kids Fund, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, the LEAPS Program at Valparaiso University, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and Time is Now.
Besides his son, Schawk is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marilyn, and children, Cathy Schawk, of Sarasota, Florida, Judy (Bruce) Gallo, of Park Ridge, and Lisa (Scott) Stearns, of Madison, Wisconsin; and seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 416 W. Geneva St., in Delavan, Wisconsin. A funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, also at Our Redeemer.