JUDITH (JUDY) ELLIS, Chair, Toy Design Department, Fashion
Institute of Technology
Judy Ellis is the founder and chair of the nation’s first
baccalaureate program in Toy Design, which she launched at the Fashion
Institute of Technology in 1989. In this position, she provides
students with an environment emphasizing an ethical design approach and
commitment to community.
The FIT program boasts close to 350 alumni who are working in leading
toy design, manufacturing and inventor group throughout the United
States and across the globe. An estimated 3,500 products –
including Hasbro’s Transformers Mega Powerbots, Littlest Pet Shop
Round & Round Pet Town Playset and the licensed idea that was
developed by Spin Master®, LTD into the 2009 Toy of the Year
Bakugan – have been designed by FIT toy design alumni.
Ms. Ellis has received two SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for
Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Faculty Service and an award
from the national Women In Toys organization for outstanding
contribution to the industry. She has been invited to speak about
children and design at events including The Yale University
Inter-Disciplinary Bio-ethics program, the International Toy Research
Association World Toy Congress, and The Smithsonian Institute Museum of
American History Invention and Play exhibition, among others.
A graduate of Parsons School of Design with a BFA in Communication
Design, Ms. Ellis’ career has been rich with educational and
professional experience. During her tenure at New York-based design firm
Chermayeff and Geismar, Ms. Ellis designed an award-winning permanent
bicentennial exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and large-scale
murals for IBM.
PATRICK (PAT) FEELY, Retired CEO Radica Games / Chairman Toy Industry Foundation
An over 30 year veteran and innovator in the toy and game industry,
Pat Feely has led as President turnarounds at three publicly traded
companies - Radica Games, Tonka USA, and Spectrum HoloByte. Pat's
career has also included long service to the Toy Industry Association
that spans over 20 years including 12 years as Director, Chairman
(2000-2002) and Advisor of the Toy Industry Association, founding
Chairman of the Toy Industry Foundation in 2002 and currently serving
his third term and 5th year as TIF Chairman. During this period
the TIF and Toy Bank have grown substantially and become a significant
benefactor to children in need reflecting positively on the Toy
As CEO of Radica, Pat led the company's transformation from a small
handheld game company into a leading, diversified, electronic toy and
game company known for innovation. Some of Radica's ground breaking
innovations included PlayTV, the toy industry's first line of plug &
play TV games, Girl Tech, the industry's first line of girl's
electronics including its voice response Password Journal, and the
artificial intelligence wonder, 20Q, the 2006 TOTY Electronic
Entertainment Toy of the Year. He also led sale of Radica to Mattel in
2006, the company where Pat started his toy industry career.
As President of Tonka USA during the 1980s Pat led the turnaround
around Tonka's failing truck business increasing market share from 18%
to over 40% and diversified the company with the launch of Pound
Puppies, GoBots (the first line of transformable robots) and the Sega
Video Game System in America increasing sales over 400% and taking Tonka
to the #6 size rank in the industry.
In 1988 Pat launched a start up company, Toy Soldiers, that was later
sold to Bandai America where he became President before joining Spectrum
HoloByte in 1993. As CEO of Spectrum, he led the acquisition of
Microprose by Spectrum Holobyte and subsequent IPO of this computer and
video game pioneer in virtual reality gaming. At Spectrum Pat led the
turnaround of a company experiencing huge losses by focusing the company
on building brand franchises such as Tetris, Star Trek and
Pat is currently consulting in the industry on general management
matters including business strategy, mergers and acquisitions. He is
also a member of the Pasadena Angels, a group of investors in start-up
companies located in Pasadena, CA.
JOEL GLICKMAN, Founder, K’NEX Brands
Joel Glickman was 50 years old in 1990 when inspiration struck. While
tinkering with cocktail straws at a wedding Joel envisioned the
possibilities of a construction toy built around the concept of rods and
connectors to hold them together.
By the time his idea (now called K’NEX) hit the toy market in
late 1992 Joel had spent two years refining the concept only to have it
rejected by the major toy companies. Against all odds he forged ahead
producing the plastic toys at his family’s injection molding
company, The Rodon Group, in Hatfield, PA.
In the 20 years that have followed, the family-owned and operated
K’NEX has grown to become one of the world’s leading
integrated construction systems for children thanks to Joel’s
leadership. The line includes sets with not only rods and connectors but
bricks, personality parts, and motors for movement, and is sold by
retailers world wide.
K’NEX focus on Building Worlds Kids Love™ has resulted in
partnerships with successful licensees’ such as Angry Birds,
Sesame Street, NASCAR, Monster Jam and Mario Kart Wii-licensed
K’NEX building sets along with K’NEX branded building sets
for kids ages 2 – 12.
Committed to manufacturing in the United States at a time when most toys
are made overseas, K’NEX has become America’s Building Toy
Company with over 90% of its parts manufactured domestically at The
Rodon Group’s eco-friendly production facility.
Joel Glickman’s idea for a new kind of building toy has
resulted in more than just a fun and educational product for children
– through K’NEX Joel has supported many worthy charities
including Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the United Way,
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and The NASCAR
2012 marks the 20th anniversary of K’NEX and what better way to
celebrate than to honor Joel Glickman who is a constant reminder that
with independence, ingenuity, hard work and a willingness to take risks
all things are possible!
STEVEN SPIELBERG, Director, Filmmaker
Perhaps the western world's most famous living filmmaker, Steven
Spielberg has succeeded in combining the intimacy of a personal vision
with the epic requirements of the modern commercial blockbuster. A
three-time Academy Award winner, he was named by Premiere magazine as
the most powerful and influential figure in the motion picture industry,
by Time magazine as one of the “100 Greatest People of the
Century” and by LIFE magazine as one of the most influential
person of his generation.
In a career that spans almost four decades, Spielberg's films have
touched many themes and genres. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, three
of his films: Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park became the highest grossing
films for their time. His credits include, Raiders of the Lost Ark
(1981) which introduced the world to Indiana Jones, the iconic
fedora-sporting archaeologist and intrepid adventurer that became the
most popular screen hero since James Bond. “Raiders” was the
biggest moneymaker of 1981 and earned a score of Oscar nominations,
including one for Spielberg for Best Director. E.T.: The
Extra-Terrestrial (1982), which captured the hearts and minds of
moviegoers of all ages went on to become the highest-grossing film of
all time until it was beaten by one of Spielberg’s own films,
Jurassic Park in 1993. The film so wove its way into the fabric of pop
culture, the phrase “E.T. phone home” became a classic line
and it also led to the sky rocketing sale of Reeses Pieces peanut butter
Other than films, Spielberg has also revealed an interest in video
games, revealing himself to be a gamer. In 2005 the director signed with
Electronic Arts to collaborate on three games including a currently
unnamed action game and a puzzle game for the Wii called Boom Blox.
Previously, he was involved in creating the scenario for the adventure
game The Dig. He is also the creator of the Medal of Honor series by
In 1991 Steven Spielberg co-founded Starbright with Randy
Aduana– a foundation dedicated to improving sick children's lives
through technology-based programs focusing on entertainment and
education. In 2002 Starbright merged with the Starlight Foundation
forming what is now today – Starlight Children's Foundation.
He attended California State University, Long Beach in the 1960s but
did not complete his degree until 2002, thirty-five years after starting
college, when he was awarded a B.A. in Film Production and Electronic
Arts with an option in Film/Video Production. He was awarded an
honorary degree from the University of Southern California in 1994.
CEO, Toys "R" Us
[Original statement from sponsor … with minimal editing by
Jerry Storch has helped to turn around and ensure
the survival of the most important retailer to the toy industry
worldwide. In a few short years, he has helped TRU regain its
leadership in toy retailing and in making a profit from toy product
sales. Unlike many of his competitors, Jerry’s business is
100% reliant on toys; he can’t make up the difference in a weak
toy year with sales of toasters, clothing and TVs. Jerry has also
supported many toy companies who were in need of “help” and
has shown his support for the industry by attending every important
industry event. I can think of no one more deserving of entry into
RUSSELL (RUSS) BERRIE (1933-2002), Founder, Russ Berrie &
Russ Berrie was chief executive and chairman of Russ Berrie &
Company, an Oakland, New Jersey business he started in a rented garage
in 1963. Mr. Berrie, who died in 2002 of a stroke at 69, built a small
financial empire on stuffed animals and other toys – from his
initial launch of Fuzzy-Wuzzies, “hairy sorts of nondescript
things” found in novelty shops and card stores, to its immediate
follow-up with the Bupkis family and the SilliSculpt lines.
In the 1980s, the Snuggle bear line prospered, followed by Troll-mania
in the early 1990’s. More recently, and since Mr.
Berrie’s passing, the company acquired plush licenses for
DreamWorks Animation and the Madagascar brand, Marvel Inc., and Raggedy
Ann and Andy.
Under Mr. Berrie’s leadership, Russ Berrie & Company (RUSS)
became one of the world’s largest gift companies with more than
1,500 employees in the U.S. and overseas at the start of the 21st
century and some $300 million in annual sales revenues. Over four
decades, he built his business into an international corporation
recognized as a leader in the gift industry. He formed a sales
organization that set the industry standard for customer service, and
assembled a creative team known for innovative materials, attention to
detail, and the ability to capture and express human sentiment. He often
said, "we do not sell products, we sell love, friendship and
emotion.” Berrie served on the TIA board of directors under
Chairman David Miller in the 1990’s.
Passionate about the business of selling, Russ Berrie recognized the
enormous sales potential of the impulse gift market, creating products
meant to catch the eye of shoppers on their way to the cash register in
products which captured catch phrases and hot trends.
Inc. magazine recognized the company as one of the 500 fastest
growing, privately held firms in the U.S. in 1982, and on March 29,
1984, the company went public, trading shares on the New York Stock
In addition to his business accomplishments, Mr. Berrie devoted
endless time, energy and resources to numerous charitable causes. As a
private individual, through The Russell Berrie Foundation and through
corporate donations, he supported organizations and fostered initiatives
that expressed his values, passions and vision in the areas of diabetes,
humanism in medicine, Jewish continuity, salesmanship as a profession,
arts and culture, honoring New Jersey’s unsung heroes, and
strengthening the Bergen County community. His support of philanthropic
organizations earned him numerous awards and public recognition. Fortune
magazine, in its February 6, 1998 issue, honored Mr. Berrie as one of
the forty most generous Americans.
Angelica, Mr. Berrie’s widow, now runs the foundation from its
office in Teaneck, New Jersey.
ARTHUR “SPUD” MELIN & RICHARD KNERR (-2002,
-2008), Co-Founders, Wham-O Toy
Arthur “Spud” Melin & Richard Knerr created the
original Fun Factory in America. The two college friends started Wham-O
in 1948 and ran the company together for more than 30 years. It was the
iconic toy company of the 20th Century.
From 1957 to 1972 they had the most successful streak of introductory
novelty toys of any company in American history. Their success created
the very definition of ‘Hall of Fame’ toys. Starting with
the Hula Hoop (the biggest fad of the 20th Century), they followed in
quick succession with the Frisbee, Limbo Stick, Silly String, Super
Ball, Slip n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack.
Spud and Rich were fun first, business second. They were each
pioneers of TV advertising, plastic manufacturing and promotional
tie-ins. More importantly, their toys have stood the test of time. They
were inventors, pioneers, risk takers, and game changers. Their story
was featured in Tim Walsh’s book, Whamo Superbook, and their
incredible toys have appeal in more than 100 movies in the pas 50
Spud and Rich created a stable of incredible toys that rocked America
when they were first introduced and are now still impacting every child
and every family. Toys like the Hula Hoop and Frisbee continue to
delight children, but more importantly they find new users and new
audiences. There isn’t another toy company including Hasbro and
Mattel that created so many toys that reached “cultural height
when introduced and continue to enthrall children 40, 50, and 60 years
Aside from their contributions to the play of children the men were
great to the local communities and the toy industry overall. I nominate
Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Kerr to the Toy Industry
Hall of Fame as the kind of role models that we all should look to.
Let’s celebrate and bring back the joy and fun of great American
toys. These “Regular Guys” pioneered the West Coast toy
industry along with Mattel’s Handler family at a time when most of
the industry was East of the Mississippi.
Mr. Melin died in June 2002 at age 77. Mr. Knerr died in
January 2008 at age 82.