I’ve never been a huge fan of being surprised. I like planning surprises for other people, but I’ve never liked being on the receiving end of such things. Maybe it’s my nature as a writer to want to know as much information as I can upfront. (Here’s hoping the people who know and care about me most realize this if they decide to throw me a “surprise” party in 2013 for my special “ending-in-zero” birthday.)
So I can relate to what outgoing InfoComm International executive director Randal Lemke must have been going through as the days before his retirement at the end of 2012 neared and he started to see unusual things on his and his co-workers’ schedules.
I also can relate to how tough it must have been for the select few who knew to keep the secret about the association’s new training facility to be named in his honor, which happened Dec. 5, when it became the Randal A. Lemke, Ph. D. Center for Professional Development, six months after the idea first emerged among the staff.
In the days leading up to the unveiling of the new name, director of public and government relations Betsy Jaffe and others concocted an elaborate scheme that included covering the new name on the door with brown paper and telling Lemke the window pane was damaged while being cleaned, all in the name of keeping the surprise.
Lemke may have had some inclination a surprise was coming when he tried to schedule meetings with staffers who were all unavailable at the same time as their usual get-together, but he never broke his poker face, says Jaffe.
And, although Lemke had begged for a low-key exit and quiet transition to new executive VP and CEO Dave Labuskes (he refused most requests for interviews that would have led to sendoffs and tributes, although he did agree to pose with Applied Visual Communications CEO Carole Peters on our December 2012 Integrator of the Year cover before he knew about the training center name change), organizers of the annual InfoComm holiday party invited past presidents to send Lemke off in style.
“Randy’s a smart guy, so I’m pretty sure he knew something was going on, although he never let on that he did,” says Jaffe.