Rowland Stiteler - May He Rest in Peace

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Rowland Stiteler - May He Rest in Peace

By Rich Luna | Jun 24, 2019

Editor’s Note: It is with great sadness that I write this story about our dear friend and colleague Rowland Stiteler. He was a consummate professional who cared deeply for MPI members and for showcasing the best of our industry in his stories. He was a diligent reporter and a superb wordsmith. He had a deep love for his family and we will miss his wit, his sense of humor, his passion for animal rescue, his byline and so much more. Godspeed Rowland.

Rowland Stiteler, whose reporting and writing graced the pages of MPI’s flagship publication, The Meeting Professional, has died.

Stiteler, 72, suffered a heart attack last week outside his home in Ecuador. He had been an editor for The Meeting Professional since 2014 but had written for the publication for many more years prior to joining the staff full time.

His wife, Donna Smith Stiteler, who is a freelance writer for The Meeting Professional, said her husband was returning from the store with a cake for a young boy he was teaching English to when he collapsed.

“Rowland was and is the love of my life and I cannot think of a life without him,” she said. “I write this through a flood of tears. He was a roller coaster ride—a genius, a gifted journalist with a slew of accolades.

“He was a veteran and the best storyteller on earth—funny and moving. Faith helps, but this will take time for me to heal. I’m just trying to figure this out, because I wasn’t ready to let him go."

Stiteler is also survived by a daughter, Heather, and was preceded in death by another daughter, Tiffany. He and his wife would have celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary on the day he died.

Stiteler’s work could be found on MPI’s print and digital platforms. He took a lead role in developing the Showcase section of the magazine—its mission to share success stories and best practices from destinations across the U.S. and around the world. He reported on stories from the aftermath of a hurricane to the future of meetings in Mexico following the closure of the Mexico Tourism Board.

“If you needed a thoroughly researched article with quotes from all of the most important sources within 24 hours, Rowland was your guy and he was happy to do it,” said Managing Editor Blair Potter, who worked with Stiteler since joining MPI nearly 20 year ago and was his direct supervisor.

Stiteler was the MPI Tampa Bay Area Chapter Member of the Month for April 2012, and he highlighted that fact in his email signature for quite some time because he was proud of it. He kept a very close watch on his MPI membership to make sure that it never lapsed because his ties to the organization and community were important to him.

“But I’ll really miss Rowland because he was a great friend, perhaps the world’s funniest storyteller and a passionate animal rescuer (alongside his wife, Donna), spending many years volunteering with animal charities such as the SPCA.”

Senior Editor Michael Pinchera enjoyed hearing Stiteler’s tales about the culture and peculiarities of various destinations, and his trademark phrase, “…but I digress.”

“If you ever had a conversation with Rowland, chances are you heard him politely but not apologetically say ‘but I digress’ after sharing some witty, potentially off-color gem about the news of the day or [who he considered] idiot politicians,” Pinchera said. “His digressions were 100 percent Rowland and, whether they made you laugh out loud or cringe, were wonderful.

“In the 16 years I knew Rowland, every indication was that he lived a full life—traveling, writing and settling down with the woman he adored in a veritable paradise, a destination, he would remind us poor souls suffering through summers back in Texas, that was 68 degrees seemingly every day. He’s left us with more than just countless stories; through his attitude and humor, he shared a sustainable way of viewing the world without going mad.”

Stiteler’s passing resonated throughout the industry.

Joan Eisenstodt, principal at Eisenstodt Associates, a meetings and hospitality consulting company, heard the news through a friend on Facebook, who told her to “be prepared.” She was interviewed many times by Stiteler and over time, “our shared passion for others and the world deepened our friendship.”

“He was an excellent journalist, a reporter who delved deeply into the topic,” she said. “He got to know those he interviewed knowing they would be good sources for other ideas and stories. He was, in a word, a mensch. My heart is so heavy knowing that I can’t even take food to Donna and care for their fur babies because I’m so far away. We’ve lost a great source and transmitter of knowledge.

“And as he lived, so he died, doing something kind for others, a cake being brought home for someone’s son. In Judaism, we say of those who have died, ‘May their memory be only for a blessing.’ His is and always will be.”

Eduardo Chaillo of Global Meetings & Tourism Specialists, a consulting and strategy firm, was often interviewed by Stiteler.

“Rowland was a very professional journalist who brought unbiased, culturally sensitive and very well documented stories to our industry through MPI’s communications media,” he said. “It was always a pleasure to answer his questions, to go in-depth in relevant conversations, mostly referred to the meetings/tourism industry in my country Mexico and the Latin American region. Just a few days ago, he interviewed me regarding the impact of the dissolution of the Mexico Tourism Board, trying to find always a positive approach to the situation. In peace he may rest. We will miss him.”

Terry Brinkoetter, public relations director for the Walt Disney World Resort, worked with Stiteler for many years, calling him “one of the first journalists I worked with when I began leading PR efforts for the Disney Meetings business in 1998.”

“Over 20 years, I grew to consider him a true friend,” Brinkoetter said. “Always gregarious, he was also wildly curious and seemed to know something about everything. Time with Rowland was anything but boring. With the love and support of his soulmate, Donna, my friend Rowland lived an amazing life on his own terms. And he died knowing he was loved. We should all be so lucky to write our last chapters like Rowland did.”

Stiteler interviewed Michel Wohlmuth, president of the MPI México Chapter, just two weeks ago.

“I can say that Rowland was a kind, nice, friendly, gentle, generous and noble person,” Wohlmuth said. “He was a great human being. Without a doubt, it is a significant loss for the meeting industry.”

Karl Nybergh, a meeting consultant with Conference Resources & Solutions, said he had numerous interviews with Stiteler and met him for the first time recently in Miami.

“Rowland was a kind soul, soft spoken and powerful with a pen,” Nybergh said. “I admired him as I realized he was more then a powerful writer—he was an animal lover, a wine enthusiast, and don’t get him started on politics as he would go ‘Rowland’ on you.

“Rowland’s death was sudden, but his life was not faint. His memory will always be in our memories through his writings. I am grateful I had a chance to meet up with Rowland and listen to his interesting stories. I will miss my friend, but I am glad and again grateful for having known Rowland.”

Bernard Schraer, senior vice president, global business development at MPI, who supervises the media team, said Stiteler made “significant contributions as a journalist for MPI’s print and digital platforms. He was an excellent writer, well respected and liked by his colleagues and the meeting industry community he so often wrote about. Rowland will be greatly missed.”

Stiteler, originally from Ossining, N.Y., was a former reporter with organizations such as United Press International and newspapers the Fort Worth Star Telegram and Orlando Sentinel. He was an was editor at D (Dallas) Magazine and Houston Magazine. He graduated from Baylor University and got his master’s from TCU.



Rich Luna

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