The Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC), Springfield, Massachusetts, the North American association for converters of paperboard packaging and their suppliers, has selected Steven C. Voorhees, former CEO of WestRock, as the recipient of its 2021 Robert T. Gair Award. Named after the man whose innovation gave birth to the modern folding carton, the Robert T. Gair Award is reserved for individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to the paperboard packaging industry.
Long before Voorhees found himself driving success for one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies, he was pushing a lawnmower across the lawn of his childhood home in Michigan. Voorhees attributes this and other chores to his father, a navy commander with a post-retirement career in the chemical industry, as instilling within him the strong work ethic that would serve him throughout his career.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and MBA from the University of Virginia, Voorhees spent the first leg of his career working for the Birmingham, Alabama-based energy company, Sonat. He went on to join the paperboard packaging firm, RockTenn (which would later become WestRock as part of a merger under Voorhees’ guidance). There he held numerous leadership positions in the Atlanta, Georgia-based corporation before being named CEO in 2013.
Voorhees’ many accomplishments center around expanding WestRock’s capabilities, geographic presence and industry leadership with numerous acquisitions. Voorhees is known for cultivating a corporate culture that delivered immeasurable value to customers, stockholders and teammates alike.
Ben Markens, PPC president stated that he congratulates Mr. Voorhees on his significant accomplishment – and it is significant. In fact, PPC has only given 19 Gair Awards during its 92-year history. Only the most committed and exemplary individuals can receive the award, those who have left an indelible mark not only on the industry but on PPC as well as their own communities. Without a doubt, Mr. Voorhees fits the bill.
Indeed, Voorhees’ impact extends beyond the industry. As a community partner, he has lent his business and leadership expertise to several Metro Atlanta organizations, including Junior Achievement of Georgia and Boys & Girls Clubs. As an advocate for youth programs and education, Voorhees was one of the business leaders that supported the development of 3DE by Junior Achievement, an innovative approach to high school that integrates business connectivity into education to provide a real-world, authentic, experiential curriculum. He often made a point of visiting with 3DE students during their WestRock case study trips to the company’s home office to talk about the company, the industry and careers in modern manufacturing, including his personal career journey.
Voorhees said he is extremely grateful to the PPC for this exceptional recognition, noting that it has been a privilege to serve the paper and packaging industry, including WestRock as president and CEO. He extended thanks to all of the people who have supported him throughout his career and enabled this recognition, including his wife, Celia, and the incredible WestRock team members around the world who work tirelessly every day to connect people to essential, sustainable products.
Announced virtually last week during PPC’s Spring Meeting, the 2021 Robert T. Gair award will be celebrated in-person during the association’s Fall Conference, Oct. 27-29, 2021, in Savannah, Georgia.