A graduate and adviser of Kansas University's business school will start work next year as the top executive for the world's largest maker of greeting cards.
Hallmark Cards Inc. announced this week that Donald J. Hall Jr. would become president and chief executive officer of Hallmark, the company his grandfather founded 91 years ago in Kansas City, Mo.
Hall, who received his master's of business administration degree from KU, will take over for Irv Hockaday Jr., who is retiring effective Dec. 31.
Bill Beedles, a KU business professor who taught Hall introductory business finance, remembers his student as being particularly thoughtful and deliberate in class qualities that certainly have served him well at Hallmark.
"Don was one who always wanted to have all the facts," Beedles said. "He didn't want anybody to surprise him with information. He always caused the whole class to be engaged in the dialogue."
And now, with a student about to assume the top post for a private company that generated $4.3 billion in revenues last year, Beedles only has one regret.
"I was annoyed then, and I'm annoyed now, that I can't buy shares in Hallmark," he said, laughing.
Hall, 45, received his KU degree in 1983, 12 years after he joined Hallmark to handle product, operations and sales assignments. He soon would become director of specialty store development, and later ascended to general manager of Keepsakes, Hallmark's Christmas ornaments brand. He became vice president-creative in 1995.
Hall was elected vice chairman of Hallmark's board in 1996, and has been the company's executive vice president since 1999.
Hall has been a member of the advisory board for KU's business school since 1993, and also is a member of the advisory board for KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park.
He also is a member of the Chancellors Club, which is the major donor organization for the Kansas University Endowment Association.
As president and CEO of Hallmark, Hall will lead the corporation and its five major businesses: Hallmark North America, Hallmark International, Binney & Smith, Hallmark Entertainment and Crown Center Redevelopment.
Hallmark has some 25,000 employees worldwide, including nearly 1,000 at a plant at 101 McDonald Drive in Lawrence.
"Don has spent his entire life in and around the business," said Hall's father, Donald J. Hall, Hallmark's chairman. "For more than 30 years he has worked in a variety of areas at Hallmark, including product development, operations and sales. I have complete confidence in his readiness to lead this company."
So does Beedles.
"It's deserved," he said. "I'm glad he's taking over."