ASAE President & CEO John H. Graham IV Leaves a Legacy in His Passing

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ASAE President & CEO John H. Graham IV Leaves a Legacy in His Passing

By Rich Luna | Jan 13, 2020

John H. Graham IV, who served as president and CEO of The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE) since 2003, has died following an extended battle with cancer, ASAE announced Monday.

Graham, FASAE, CAE, guided ASAE through membership growth, innovation and an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in association leadership. He was 70.

He disclosed last June that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was stepping back from the day-to-day management of ASAE.

“While no words can adequately express our deep sorrow at losing our leader, the ASAE team is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to know and work with John,” ASAE said in a statement, adding he was “a transformative leader for ASAE and a mentor to many in the association community.”

ASAE said that during his tenure, which began Aug. 1, 2003, ASAE more than doubled its membership and developed a wealth of innovative products and services to benefit association professionals and their partners.

Among the many programs ASAE launched during his tenure was the Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP), which supports individuals from under-represented identity groups to advance into the ranks of leadership in the association management profession. 

Graham “leaves behind an organization marking its centennial in 2020, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of ASAE’s work moving forward,” the statement said.

Graham was well known and highly respected, and news of his passing resonated throughout the association world.

“John was the epitome of class and was always the ultimate professional,” said ASAE board member Michael Dominguez, president and CEO of ALHI. “His commitment to our industry and ASAE was never more evident than the grace and positivity he showed over the past 6 months. He will be missed.”

The ASAE board announced that Susan Robertson, CAE, will continue to serve as interim president and CEO of ASAE, a US$34 million-revenue association of association executives. She was executive vice president under Graham and president of the ASAE Foundation.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) just announced last week a partnership with ASAE to deliver collaborative educational programming and projects around key meeting industry topics including experience design.

“While no words can adequately express our deep sorrow at losing our leader, the ASAE team is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to know and work with John. He was a transformative leader for ASAE and a mentor to many in the association community.”

The initiative will result in joint education around experience design at ASAE’s Xperience Design Project (XDP) event, bringing together ASAE’s essential elements of experience design education with the added benefit of working towards MPI’s certificate in experience design.

The collaboration will also lead to other education programs at select industry events throughout the year, including MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC) and ASAE’s Annual Meeting.

"From the day we met, John immediately become a benevolent and gracious mentor,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO at MPI. “And over time, I was blessed that our relationship grew in to a cherished friendship. Today’s news of John's passing was like a punch in the gut. He will be missed dearly, but he leaves behind an impressive legacy of achievement, innovation, leadership and most importantly family.”

Graham was honored as “Association Executive of the Year” in 2013 by Association TRENDS, and he touched on why he found association management such a personally rewarding profession.

“Whatever our personal journeys have been—however we came to embrace associations as our life’s work—we can take great pride in the advancement of this profession,” Graham said. “Our organizations comprise an incredibly innovative, vibrant and diverse sector, and we see innumerable examples every day of how associations effect positive change—not just for the industries or professions they serve, but for society at large. America is quite simply a better place to live and work because the association community is leading the way in areas like professional development and credentialing, standard setting, community assistance, research and volunteerism.”

Graham remained optimistic after announcing his diagnosis.

“I have some unfortunate news to share with you,” he said as the time. “There are many details that I have to learn and understand about the cancer and my treatment options. I expect that I will soon start treatment, with the goal of complete recovery. In the interim, I will be working from home. I am happy to receive emails and other written communications during this time.

“We look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting & Exposition in Columbus.”

While he was unable to attend, he was recognized and honored throughout the meeting.

Graham previously served the American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, Va., for 24 years, the last 13 as CEO. Before joining ADA, Graham served the Boy Scouts of America for nine years and in May 2015 was recognized as a Distinguished Eagle Scout.

He served on the Association Committee of 100, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; as chairman of the Mobile Giving Foundation Board of Directors; on the Board of Directors of the Lambda Chi Alpha Foundation; and as president of the National Capital Area Council, Boy Scouts of America.

The Graham family will hold a private service for John in Pennsylvania and a memorial service in Washington, D.C., will follow.

 

Author

Rich
Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.