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Pat Dwyer Reflects on a Life in the Industry and Her Next Phase in Life

by F. Andrew Taylor, Exhibit City News, https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/mar-apr_ecn2018 

Patricia Dwyer was recently presented with The Outstanding Achievement in Industry Leadership Award by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. Not bad for someone who had retired six months earlier.

Retired is a bit of an overstatement. She left her position as a senior manager at SmithBucklin in March 2017, but she still maintains her contacts in the industry and is available for consulting work. After 45 years in the industry, she was ready for a change. “I had been with the company for 21 years,” Dwyer says. “Nothing new or dramatic happened, I just felt it was time to start the next phase of my life.”
Dwyer, Pat to her friends, started in the business in 1972, working for her father’s company, Martin C. Dwyer, Inc., in Chicago. “I had been going to college for political science, but times were changing in Washington,” she says. “So, I went to work with my father part-time and ended up working there until he sold the company in the mid-80s. I don’t know that we actually we had titles back then. I guess you could say I was assistant to the president, but everybody sort of took care of everything.”

When the company was sold, she moved to New York City to work for the company that purchased it, but found NYC wasn’t really her style. She moved back to Chicago but soon moved away when she was offered a position in Alexandria, Va. She returned to Chicago again after seven years and took a position with the Chicago Convention Bureau and left when she was offered a job as a supervisor at SmithBucklin in 1996.

“I’ve seen tremendous changes in the industry over the years,” Dwyer says. It’s not just the technology of it, but the whole way we interact with the exhibitors. We didn’t have emails or FedEx or anything like that when I started.”

She believes that this led to a more personal relationship with the customers and that led to her having many long-time friends in the industry. “You had to talk to your customers directly to help them with their issues instead of firing off an email and directing them to your website,” Dwyer says. “For the most part, the changes have been for the better. I don’t think the technology is a detriment, it’s quite the opposite, in fact. It was just a different way back then, but I loved growing up with the industry and getting to know people.”

She notes that despite the huge size of the industry, at heart it’s like a small family where you know people not just as business associates, but as friends. “Some industry people have become life-long friends,” Dwyer says. “It’s a very personal industry. I still keep up with my friends in the industry. I would never let that go.”

It was with this in mind that she attended the awards luncheon in late November at 2017’s Expo! Expo!, IAEE’s annual meeting and exhibition in San Antonio this year. Dwyer’s award annually recognizes an IAEE member who has made an extraordinary personal or professional commitment that materially contributes to the advancement of the exhibitions and events industry.
“Someone in the industry nominated me for it,” Dwyer says. “I was very honored and humbled to receive it from my peers.”

Dwyer hasn’t made any set decisions about her next move, but she’s pondering relocating to Florida, away from Chicago’s brisk winters and where many of her friends and industry contacts have gone to. Among the thing she hopes to do is to get involved in charity work. “That’s a life-long passion that I’ve had, but I wasn’t able to do it while I was working, especially with all of the travel, late nights and everything else,” Dwyer says.

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