by Professor Joe Goldblatt
It takes genuine courage to stick your neck out or above the parapet and declare “Change is needed now.” The individuals who respond to the call of creating “good trouble”, as defined by the the later U.S. congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, are indeed few and far between. Allan F. Elias was one such remarkable individual.
I first met Allan at a special events conference in 1988 and immediately recognized his leadership talent and ability when he was one of nine original founders that gave birth to the International Caterers Association. Allan was always more than merely a joiner when it came to participating in organisations. I saw him bring his good ideas along with his willingness to make them a reality to every meeting he attended.
Along the same time we first met in a marquee in Florida, I also noted how others followed his tall figure to see where he was going. He always walked swiftly and had a talent for bringing others along with him. It was this ability to not only lead but effectively work with others that motivated me to invite him to join the 18 original founders of the International Special Events Association (ISES) which is now known as the International Live Events Association (ILEA).
In the early days of ISES the funds were low and often non existent. However, Allan, at his own expense, travelled all over the United States helping ISES to grow by starting local chapters. I often wonder how he continued to operate his successful Minneapolis, Minnesota based catering rentals firm, Cater Rents, while simultaneously starting an international association. This also meant that many weekends that he could of spent with the family he adored he spent somewhere else founding a new future for our industry.
One of the chapters that Allan helped give birth to was in Chicago, Illinois. As fthe ounding president of ISES, I asked Allan, a midwesterner, to use his extensive contacts to find an inexpensive hotel for our board to hold its meetings and also stay for one night while we also hosted a public event to promote the development of a local chapter.
I think Allan must have misunderstood or misheard me because he arranged for us to stay at a very modest (cheap) hotel and many of us teased him about this for many years as in often saying “Let’s get Allan to organise the next hotel!” I now know that Allan selected that hotel because he wanted to not cause any financial hardship for his friends. Because he was such a gentleman, he took our teasing good naturedly and laughed along with us every time.
My friend Allan not only helped found two international associations, he also founded a loving family comprised of his wife Judy and daughter Felicia. Judy was his companion and partner for many at our many ISES functions and together their devotion and determination to professionalise the field of special events throughout the world was an inspiration to all, including me.
We lost Allan in January of 2018 and regrettably, I just learned of his passing this week. However, his contributions to the field of catering and special events were so noteworthy and remarkable that I know he will be remembered and cherished for time immemorial as one in our industry who created “good trouble” in order to found institutions that benefitted human society.