John McMeel, a former member of IPI’s Executive Board and former chair of the IPI North American Committee, passed away on July 7 at his home in Kansas City. He was 85.

McMeel joined IPI as a member in the late 1980s and served on the organization’s Executive Board from 1998 to 2006, during which time he also served as the chair of IPI’s North American Committee.

In his capacity as IPI’s North American chair, John McMeel presided over IPI’s 50th Anniversary World Congress in Boston in April/May 2000. Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, McMeel highlighted IPI’s “American roots”, citing that the organization had been founded by Lester Markel of the Sunday New York Times in 1950. McMeel said: “Together, we are making Lester Markel’s dream come true: creating an organization that not only serves the cause of journalism but promotes global understanding and peace.”

“John McMeel was a great asset to journalism worldwide and the IPI network”, IPI North American Chair John Daniszewski said. “During his period as a member of the Executive Board and chair of the North American Committee, John took the lead in strengthening the presence of IPI in the region and guiding us in our global work. His contribution will always be valued by the network.”

In 1970, McMeel and his friend Jim Andrews founded the Universal Press Syndicate from the basement of Andrews’s apartment in Kansas City. With his excellent salesmanship, McMeel, who was famously called “Deal McMeel”, ensured exponential growth of the syndication service that went on to become the largest independent newspaper syndicate in the world.

As a fitting culmination to his term as chair of IPI’s North American Committee, McMeel was present in New York City when IPI was awarded the News and Documentary Emmy on September 25, 2006. The National Television Academy (NTA) honoured IPI and two other organizations, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters sans frontières, for their press freedom work. The IPI director, together with John McMeel and his successor on the IPI Executive Board and North American Committee, Charles Eisendrath, received the honour on behalf of IPI.