Former NAW CEO Dirk Van Dongen Dies at 80 - Modern Distribution Management

Log In

Former NAW CEO Dirk Van Dongen Dies at 80

Van Dongen led NAW for 41 years until his retirement in late 2020, spearheading the association’s transformation into what it is today.
NAW Dirk grayscale

The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors shared the group’s former longtime President and Chief Executive Officer, Dirk Van Dongen, died June 8. He was 80 years old. 

Van Dongen led NAW for 41 years until his retirement in late 2020, spearheading the association’s transformation into what it is today. He was also President of NAW’s Institute for Distribution Excellence, Treasurer of NAW-PAC and led the NAW Service Corporation. 

“I often told Dirk Van Dongen that he was a living legend. Throughout his four-decade tenure, he transformed NAW into a powerhouse in Washington. Dirk mentored generations of trade association leaders, including myself,” said Eric Hoplin, NAW’s President and CEO since October 2020. “He played a pivotal role in electing hundreds of members of Congress, all while advising them on the importance of free enterprise. His office walls told the story of his influence, adorned with photos of Presidents, Prime Ministers and countless leaders of the House and Senate. When he passed the baton of NAW leadership to me, his graciousness and generosity were unparalleled. Dirk was not just a mentor but a friend to me and many others. While he will be deeply missed, the impact he made will resonate for generations.” 

Van Dongen remained active in the industry post-retirement, serving as a senior advisor to distribution technology advisement firm Applico and sales management provider Proton. 

His tenure with NAW began in 1968 when he transitioned from AT&T’s marketing department to direct NAW’s membership drive through phone solicitations. NAW noted that this strategy boosted the association’s membership and set the stage for Van Dongen’s career. 

He had a major presence lobbying for pro-business policies in the U.S. political scene, beginning in the Regan administration. Van Dongen served as co-chairman of several finance committees for the election of GOP presidential candidates and assembled coalitions of business interests that helped the passage of legislation that included the 1986 tax reform bill and the 2001 tax cuts under President George W. Bush. In April 2020, Van Dongen was named by President Trump to an advisory group on reopening the U.S. economy in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. 

“Dirk was also a cherished friend and mentor to many, and we send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Maryann, and his daughters Rachel and Marisa,” NAW said in a news release. “His legacy of relentless advocacy, transformative leadership, and genuine friendship will be sorely missed.” 

Related Posts

Share this article

About the Author
Recommended Reading
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

Get the MDM Update Newsletter

Wholesale distribution news and trends delivered right to your inbox.

Sign-up for our free newsletter and get:

  • Up-to-date news in a quick-to-read format
  • Free access to webcasts, podcasts and live events
  • Exclusive whitepapers, research and reports
  • And more!


articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events

Subscribe to continue reading

MDM Premium Subscribers get:

  • Unlimited access to
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events



You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.

Join other distribution executives who use MDM Premium to optimize their business. Our insights and analysis help you enter the right new markets, turbocharge your sales and marketing efforts, identify business partners that help you scale, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Register for full access

By providing your email, you agree to receive announcements from us and our partners for our newsletter, events, surveys, and partner resources per MDM Terms & Conditions. You can withdraw consent at any time.

Learn More about Custom Reports

Request a Market Prospector Demo

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.