October 9, 2017
In Tribute: David M. Hickman
Social expressions industry executive Dave Hickman passed away on September 21 near his home in Dallas, Oregon. Hickman was born in Salem in 1942, the second of three children. He contracted rheumatic fever as a boy and found his lifelong love of reading in the home schooling that followed. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 with his father’s permission, serving in Korea and Nicaragua. Dave is survived by his wife of 49 years, Karen, son Sean (Dawn), daughter Shannon, grandchildren Paige and Logan, and brother Dan (Pat).
Hickman started his path in the stationery trade with Gibson Greeting Cards, later working for Coty cosmetics as a key account manager before establishing his own sales organization in his native Northwest. He was soon selected to guide Paper Art by new owner Bill Atcheson in 1975. Hickman rewarded Atcheson’s confidence in his selection, assembling and leading a talented sales team that brought Paper Art compounded growth over the next ten years. The company’s products drove innovation in the growing paper party consumer trade, and expanded success for thousands of retailers across America and around the world. Dave was President and COO of Paper Art when Atcheson sold the company in 1985.
In the years that followed, Hickman served as a prominent consultant in the gift and stationery trade. His talents and contributions ranged from long-term strategic planning, to innovative product development plans, to the “next great sales promotion”. Hickman developed influential relationships with hundreds of professionals in the industry. He operated with high personal character and learned intelligence, essential ingredients in an influential leadership style that ranged from enthusiastic provocateur to passionate “damn the torpedoes” proponent. Hickman lived with an intense conviction about what was possible, and brought out the best in those he served. And they never received less from him.
Hickman was a featured industry speaker and the recipient of several industry awards. He served on the Board of various companies during his career, and was listed in numerous “Who’s Who?” directories. He also served as Executive Vice President at AMCAL from 1996-2003. Hickman engineered that company’s massive sales expansion across multiple market sectors before the company was sold in 2004.
Among his consulting clients, Hickman served longest with greeting card publisher Avanti Press. “Dave was one of a kind,” said Avanti founder and president, Rick Ruffner. “We first met Dave in 1987, and he was just recently here in Detroit with us in July. But of course he never let on about his recent cancer diagnosis. Dave had the run of the place at Avanti. His intellect and creative thinking were a great fit here. He was wholly committed to measurable ongoing improvements in the company, but the truer summary is that Dave’s contributions to each of us were immeasurable.”