The Board of Trustees of the Museum of Russian Icons is deeply saddened to announce the death of founder Gordon B. Lankton. From his early days as a Boy Scout collecting pennies, Gordon was a studious and passionate collector. Whether it was icons, African sculpture, World War I and II posters, or die-cast model cars, Gordon tirelessly pursued not only the objects, but also information about their origins and the artists who created them. After opening a branch of his plastics manufacturing company in Moscow in 1992, he came to appreciate Russian culture, particularly the icon, the emblematic sacred art form stemming from the Byzantine traditions of the Russian Orthodox Christian faith. Gordon founded the Museum of Russian Icons in 2006. To continue his legacy, the Museum has created the Gordon B. Lankton Collections Fund, which will ensure his vision is shared by visitors from all walks of life and all over the world.
Gordon was born in Peoria, Illinois, on April 24, 1931. He graduated from Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1954, where he became president of the student council. His first taste of global travel came as a delegate to an international student council convention in Japan. He then served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1954 to 1956. Gordon spent 1956 to 1957 traveling from Germany to Japan on an NSU motorcycle, an adventure he described in his book, The Long Way Home. During this trip, Gordon began to visualize the global corporation that he would one day build. In his book, he states that “If a single theme has come out of my nine-month experience, it was somehow I have to focus my life on minimizing the enormous disparity of living conditions in the world.” It was a philosophy that would inform his leadership throughout his career and life.
Upon his return, Gordon joined DuPont, in Wilmington, Delaware, as Plastics Technologist, and was later recruited by Stanley Tools in New Britain, Connecticut, to be General Manager of the Plastics Division.
In 1962, Gordon placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal seeking a small custom plastics injection-molding company, a search that resulted in his investment and eventual ownership of Nylon Products, in Clinton, Massachusetts. In his years of leadership, Gordon oversaw a period of immense change, innovation, and growth at the company, which he renamed Nypro Inc. in 1977. True to his global vision, Nypro expanded to include 24 companies across the continental United States as well as operations in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Ireland, France, Hungary, Russia, Denmark, China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. Consistent with his lifelong belief in the worth of every individual, he converted Nypro into a 100% employee-owned company in 1998.
Among Gordon’s national and international awards, the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) and the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) honored him as International Businessperson of the Year. He was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 2000, and into the Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2009. He received an honorary doctorate from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and numerous other accolades, including the prestigious Pushkin Award from the Russian government in 2013.
Gordon left an indelible mark on the town of Clinton, turning old, otherwise abandoned buildings on Union Street into Nypro Inc. and the Museum of Russian Icons, both globally recognized organizations. Today the Museum has the largest collections of Russian icons outside of Russia and one of the finest collections of its kind in the world. It received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2016, signifying that operations are in full compliance with the highest standard of American museums.
An astute collector and skilled businessman, Gordon will, above all, be remembered as a leader who treated everyone with dignity. He led with humility and genuinely cared for his employees and the community, which earned him the loyalty that brought the success he deserved. His example of a life well-lived serves as an inspiration to many.
An exhibition commemorating Gordon will be held in the summer of 2021 (details to follow).