Recognizing industry members who have been critical to the success of the RV industry, RV Industry Association Chair Jeff Rutherford presented several of the RV Industry Association’s annual awards on Monday during RVs Move America Week. These awards are presented to those who have made exceptional contributions to the betterment of the RV industry and the Association.
The first award winner was Tim Schlabach of THOR Industries who was presented with the Distinguished Achievement in RV Standards Award, which honors those contributing to the enhancement of the industry’s standards.
“Tim has been a key member of the RV Industry Association Technical Subcommittee for many years and has contributed considerable expertise and guidance to the group,” Rutherford said in announcing the award. “He is responsible for the development of a major reorganization of the 2026 edition of the NFPA 1192 RV Standard that will result in a more efficient and easier standard to read and use.”
Schlabach was also instrumental in the development of the ANSI Recommended Practice Laboratory Test Procedures for Exterior Ladders (EXTLAD-1) and has also served on various Standards Ad Hoc Groups, such as solar and lithium that draft critical technical recommendations for the Technical Subcommittee & Standards Steering Committee.
“His commitment to serve and assist in the development of standards, enforcement positions, and policies has greatly assisted the Standards Department and he is greatly respected by his colleagues in the RV industry,” Rutherford continued.
The next award to be presented was the RV Industry Association’s National Education Service Award which recognizes those individuals instrumental in the development of educational programs for the RV industry.
“It is with great pride and admiration that I announce that this year’s honoree is Doug Gaeddert of Forest River,” said Rutherford. “Since moving on from his time as an RV Industry Association Board member and chair, Doug continued to be a passionate advocate for RV service training and certification for dealer and independent technicians and was a driving force in the creation of the RV Technical Institute. As one of the founding fathers of the RV Technical Institute, his vision was to have a headquarters in Elkhart that would produce top notch training rolled out across the USA and Canada.”
Leveraging his robust network of relationships, Gaeddert is responsible for nearly 3,000 more trained technicians than what we had just three years ago. During his time on the RVTI Board, Gaeddert was relentless in bringing together manufacturers, dealers, and suppliers on a level never seen before to address the critical issue of technical training.
Next up, the David J. Humphreys RV Industry Unity Award was presented jointly by the RV Dealers Association and the RV Industry Association to Garry Enyart. RV Dealer Association Chair Mike Pearo and RV Dealers Association President Phil Ingrassia joined Rutherford for the presentation of the Unity award which recognizes those who continuously strive to encourage multiple constituencies of the RV industry to work collectively for the growth and betterment of the industry.
“Throughout his distinguished career with Onan/Cummins and his dedicated service as a volunteer with the RV Industry Association, Garry has relentlessly worked to foster an understanding, cooperative environment among RV manufacturers, suppliers, and dealers,” said Rutherford. “While serving in multiple RV Industry Association leadership positions, including Treasurer, Second Vice Chairman, First Vice Chairman, and Chairman of the Board, Garry has leveraged his strong personal and business relationships across the industry to promote harmony among all industry segments.”
One tremendous example of this was his leadership in developing a voluntary, recommended best practice on RV model year changeover between July 1 and August 31 each year. This alleviated a common source of confusion that consumers had when purchasing RVs.
Enyart also spearheaded a blue-ribbon group of leaders from RV manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, and distributors to develop impactful solutions to parts and service issues through the Repair Event Cycle Time (RECT) initiative to get RVers back on the road sooner and improve consumer satisfaction.
Closing out the Award ceremony, Rutherford presented the association's highest honor, the RV Industry Association’s Distinguished Service to the RV Industry Award which is presented to an individual within the RV industry who has set themselves apart by outstanding service.
“It is with the utmost respect, admiration, and affection that we posthumously honor the late Kevin Phillips,” Rutherford announced. “In his career with Thetford Corporation and Airxcel he proved to be one of the most knowledgeable and experienced executives in the RV industry, leading both companies to become market leaders.”
Phillips served with distinction on the Board of Directors from 2009 to 2018, including Executive Committee roles as Secretary and Treasurer. He chaired the Governance Committee and Nominating committees and was a member of the Market Information, Public & Legislative Affairs, and Supplier committees.
“As an enthusiastic volunteer leader, Kevin was always willing to step up and lead a challenging project, earning the respect of those around him with his excellent strategic thinking and personable, pragmatic approach,” Rutherford continued. “Over the years, I came to know Kevin as an association colleague, a competitor, a co-worker, and a friend. There is no doubt that he was one of our best and brightest and an essential part of the fabric of our industry and our association.”
The award was accepted by Phillip’s wife Seann and children, Jessica Engstrom, Steve Phillips, Taylor Phillips, and Kate.