WMU News

Christoff, Eckstein to be honored by alma mater

March 26, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- The Western Michigan University Food Marketing Program will honor two of its outstanding alumni today (March 26).

Wendell L. Christoff of Litehouse, Inc. and Frank Eckstein of Acme Markets will receive the second annual Food Marketing Outstanding Alumni Awards on the opening night of the 36th annual Food Marketing Conference. The two-day event is expected to draw more than 500 food marketing executives from around the nation.

The Outstanding Alumni Award was established in 2000 to honor graduates of the Food Marketing Program, previously called the Food Distribution Program, who have distinguished themselves in their field.

"Both Wendell and Frank have made significant and impressive contributions to the food industry," says conference coordinator Dr. Frank M. Gambino, associate professor of marketing and adviser to the Food Marketing Program. "Both men have also been quite supportive of our program over the years, and this award is a way to show our appreciation and pride in their accomplishments."

A 1968 Western Michigan University graduate, Christoff began his career as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. In 1974, he joined C.J. Christoff & Sons, a family-owned food manufacturing company. Starting in the sales area, he rose through the ranks to become president in 1980 and CEO in 1985. A year later, he and his brother purchased the company, which was renamed Chadalee Farms, from their parents. In 1997 he led the merger of Chadalee Farms with Litehouse Inc., an Idaho-based dressing and dip manufacturer. As co-owner and vice chairman of the new company, also named Litehouse, Inc., Christoff operates out of Litehouse's facility in Lowell, Mich.

After graduating from Western Michigan University in 1968, Eckstein began his career with Jewel Food Stores. Shortly thereafter, he joined the U.S. Army, returning to Jewel in 1971 after completing his military stint. He earned his master's degree from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management while rising through the ranks at Jewel, and was eventually named vice president of store operations. A merger opened the opportunity for Eckstein in 1993 to head in-store technology for all American Stores, which included Jewel, Lucky, Acme, Savon and Osco. He eventually became vice president of operations support for American Stores, a post he held until two years ago when he was named division vice president for a group of 55 Acme stores. Eckstein has served on the boards of directors of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and the Network Electronic Funds Transfer Corp. His office is located in Malvern, Pa.

The annual food marketing conference is sponsored by WMU's Food Marketing Program in the Haworth College of Business and by Sigma Phi Omega, a professional business fraternity. All proceeds from the conference support scholarships and program operations.

The cost of attending the conference for both days is $275. Single day registrations also are available at reduced prices. Reservations and information can be obtained by calling the conference hotline at (616) 387-2132.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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