02/19/2021 by Val D'AnnaThe highest moments of Clark Plucinski’s accomplishment-laden career have been accompanied by applause. Photos that capture these moments show him on a podium at industry events with his arms outstretched, receiving either an award or a donation for the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), which he’s headed since 2012 after first serving on its Board of Directors. The plaques and trophies have been for prestigious awards like I-CAR’s Founders Award, BodyShop Business’ Executive of the Year and induction into the Hall of Eagles. The oversized check props he’s photographed hoisting in the air with CREF donors represent hundreds of thousands of dollars of support he worked to secure over his tenure.
All of these career highlights would certainly have culminated in a public celebration to mark the close of Plucinski’s 50-year career. But a different kind of send-off had to be planned due to the pandemic. At CREF’s virtual January board meeting, one of the last Plucinski attends before retiring, he was lauded for his contributions with an emotional video tribute. While there could be no hand-shaking, there was one unique advantage — this applause came with replay.
Here’s a sampling of the outpouring of admiration and affection expressed in the tribute for Plucinski, who started his career as a technician, operated a multi-location collision center, and actively served in a number of industry organizations in addition to CREF, including I-CAR and the Automotive Service Association.
If you had a dollar for every time Plucinski’s “passion” was mentioned in the tribute, it’d add up to a sizeable CREF donation! Many spoke of Plucinski’s passion for his work to support career and technical schools, including his friend of nearly 30 years, Tim Adelmann, Chief Business Development Officer, Driven Brands. Adelmann says Plucinski’s dedication to CREF’s mission began long before he became directly involved with the organization. He explains that Plucinski has a “real passion for the business and knows that the only way we’re going to continue to grow our industry both on the insurance side and the collision side is to engage with young people at a very young age.”
“One thing I’ll never forget about you when I first met you,” says Jay Sharp in the video, “is the amount of passion you had for CREF and what you wanted for students, the schools and all the work you put into making the Foundation what it is today.” Recently retired as Executive Director of Marketing, National Coatings & Supplies, Sharp says, “It’s just amazing what you’ve done in your career, from being a shop owner to being the executive director for the Foundation.”
Sandee Lindorfer, Director, Allstate Insurance, recalls her first impression of Plucinski, saying in the video, “From the day I met you, you’ve been so supportive of women in the industry and supportive of myself. You’ve done so much…so much devotion and passion around the collision repair industry.”
“You changed the landscape. You changed lives,” says Mark Algie, Business Development Manager, 3M, in his tribute to Plucinski. “You’ve done some really wonderful things. Know that you made a difference in so many lives including mine.”
Plucinski was applauded by Jeff McFadden, president, Service King, for all he’s done “to make our industry better, stronger for us all.” Addressing Plucinski in the video, McFadden says his favorite memory “is that big smile of yours.”
Plucinski’s positive energy drew people in to CREF’s work. The personal connection many feel to the CREF leader gives extra conviction to their belief that he is one of a kind. “You’ve been a great friend, one of the closest I had in the industry, a mentor, sounding board, a voice of reason,” says Nick Notte, Senior Vice President, Sales, I-CAR, in the tribute video. “You mean a ton to the industry. There’s no possible way to replace you.”
Others described Plucinski’s imprint as indelible, including Brenda Hogen, Scott Kohl and Tom Feeney. “You leave a legacy of unmatched care and devotion to this industry,” says Hogen, Vice President, PartsTrader, in the video. “Your work for the CREF organization has created so many opportunities that otherwise would not exist.” Similarly, Kohl, Vice President, Global Retail Markets, Liberty Mutual Insurance, tells Plucinski, “You’re certainly an icon and most certainly will never be forgotten for the work that you’ve done for this business and the kids pursuing careers.” Feeney, President & CEO, Safelite, is “confident in saying that our industry is better because you were part of it.”
Part of Plucinski’s legacy is the example he set. ”Your dedication has been from your heart,” says Ryan West, AVP Claims, GEICO, to Plucinski, “and it was obvious to anyone who spent even five minutes with you. There are so many people, young and old in the auto body repair field, who found their way in this world and in this career path because of the gift of your time and your leadership. I will always have a deep respect for the example that you set.”
A vital and rare trait in Plucinski’s leadership style was described by Chris Evans, Claim Consultant, State Farm, I-CAR Board member and CREF Board Chairman Emeritus. “In what can be a very polarizing industry, it’s rare to find someone that is admired and loved by all segments, and that’s you, because you honestly care for the industry. Frankly you’ll never know the scope and depth of how many people you helped. But just know this, it’s a lot. It was a highlight of my career to have worked alongside you at the Foundation.”
Pluckinski’s well wishers all expressed the hope that Plucinski will enjoy a well-deserved retirement. But no one bid him farewell.
Jeanne Silver, who was a co-owner of CARSTAR Mundelein (IL) until her recent retirement, says she can’t thank Plucinski enough for his love and devotion for the industry, but adds, “I know it’s not going away.”
“I really appreciated your friendship and support over the past several years,” says John Van Alstyne, CEO & President, I-CAR. “You’ve done a fantastic job with CREF, and your undying commitment to I-CAR is also very much appreciated. I’m sure we’ll be chatting.”
Plucinski can expect calls from the industry in his retirement. He has not hesitated to put out the offer that he’s available for volunteer work in his retirement.
Thank you for all you’ve done over a half-century, Clark, and for the future contributions you’ll make to the industry you love!