Hall of Fame–Gillispie – A Survivor


It didn’t take long for C. Stephenson Gillispie Jr. to appreciate the importance of swift and certain decision making. On one occasion, his life and those of several other people depended on it.

Gillispie developed a love of flying in his twenties. During that period, he was piloting a single-engine aircraft out of St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when the engine stalled at 600 feet during takeoff. It would take approximately one minute for the plane to return to earth.

He had three landing options: a mountain on the left, the town straight ahead and a bay on the right. Naturally, he chose the bay, but that was hardly the end of his crises management, nor would it be the last time he’d need to make critical decisions.

“It was like any number of crises. You focus very intensely on what is important to come out all right,” remarks Gillispie, whose decision-making talents and accomplishments have earned him a place as a 1999 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. “In this case, a good landing plan was the first job, preparing the plane and the passengers was the second, attempting to restart the engine was the third, and successfully landing on the water was the fourth.

“I credit my success to very good training, and then to discipline of procedure,” he adds. “For example, I always went through the drill of what to do in a water landing with the passengers before we took off. This proved to be a deciding factor [no passengers were injured]. We landed about a minute after the engine failed, but the door was wedged open and all the passengers had their life jackets on before the plane hit the water.”

When he’s not averting aeronautical disasters, Gillispie is better known in printing industry circles as the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cadmus Communications, headquartered in Richmond, VA. He has been a pivotal member of the organization since 1978, when he was in charge of booking and flow management of work through the plant at William Byrd Press, the genesis of Cadmus Communications.

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