With profound sadness, we join in mourning the passing of Dirk Van Dongen, the esteemed former CEO of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW). Dirk’s legacy is marked by his unwavering dedication to pro-business policies and his transformative leadership that built NAW into the influential trade association it is today.

“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, CEO of NAW. “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.”

Dirk’s journey with NAW began modestly in 1968 when he transitioned from AT&T’s marketing department to direct the association’s membership drive through phone solicitations. This innovative strategy boosted NAW’s membership and set the stage for his remarkable career.

A staunch advocate for free enterprise and a robust American economy, Dirk amplified the voices of countless American businesses. He had an unparalleled understanding of the impact of regulation and taxation on businesses and was masterful in advocating for government policies that fostered economic growth. Dirk was a formidable presence in American politics, starting from the Reagan administration. In addition to his work electing pro-business leaders to Congress, he served as co-chairman of several finance committees for the election of GOP Presidential candidates. He was instrumental in assembling coalitions of business interests that were pivotal in passing landmark legislation, including the 1986 tax reform bill and the 2001 tax cuts under President George W. Bush.

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. His legacy of relentless advocacy, transformative leadership, and genuine friendship will be sorely missed.

NAW is one of America’s leading trade associations, representing the $8 trillion wholesale distribution industry. Our industry employs more than 6 million workers throughout the United States, accounting for approximately 1/3 of the U.S. GDP. 250,000 wholesale distribution companies operate across North America, including all 50 states.