Honorable Mention Chapter Award
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Honorable Mention Chapter Award

 

 

MPI GREATER NEW YORK’S ROCK STAR – KATHIE STAPLETON

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By: Tash Benjamin | Mar 26, 2021

The meeting planning industry has few association management rock stars. Kathie Stapleton is one of them. She has won numerous awards for her professionalism and achievements and is so respected in the field that she is sought out for advice and counsel. Her reputation precedes her in every respect. Her years of experience have given her great insights, and Kathie believes that much of her success comes from the fact that she is “doing something that she loves.”

Giving advice, helping colleagues figure out tough situations, keeping confidences and connecting chapter members to opportunities, especially during the COVID pandemic, are parts of her job at MPIGNY at which Kathie has excelled. Kathie has established herself as a professional association administrator who can be trusted and relied upon in a crisis. As she is the only member of MPIGNY’s executive team who is permanent staff, she is the consistent contact for the association and, as such, must uphold the organization’s branding, ties to its membership communities and relationships in the industry regardless of who holds the elected positions at MPI Greater New York. 

Believe it or not, Kathie did not set out to become an association executive. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from St. John’s University in New York City and planned to have a career in teaching. When she got married and realized how little control she had over her schedule and her daily professional duties, she left teaching and started working full time for the New York chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

When Kathie started out at HSMAI, she was not a newbie. She had worked at the association during high school and college under the tutelage of her father, who, at the time, was the executive vice president of HSMAI’s global body. Kathie, therefore, came to HSMAI as a full-time employee with a great deal of experience and knowledge gleaned through spending time with her father and his colleagues. She has now been with HSMAI New York for 45 years. In 1983 when MPI’s Greater New York Chapter had rapidly grown to over 400 members, Kathie was asked to become its executive director. As of this year, she has been the administrator at MPIGNY for 38 years. 

While most of us can only handle one full-time job, Kathie balances her dual roles as the administrator for both HSMAI New York and MPIGNY with ease. Of her duties she says, “Sometimes I don’t shut down until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., but if you love what you do, you don’t mind. It helps that my husband is also very understanding. Managing both associations is really two full-time jobs in one.”

Family life
Kathie’s husband, Frank, who recently retired, was a hospitality executive. During his career, he served as the president of MPIGNY and as the president of HSMAINY, so he and Kathie have worked together twice. She said that because her husband was in the industry and has a good understanding of the inner workings of a professional association, he has served, and continues to serve, as a great resource and sounding board for her. She said that he is a “shoulder to lean on when things get crazy.”

Early life
Kathie names her father, Frank Berkman, as the biggest influence in her professional life. Of him, she says, “He taught me everything that I know about being an association manager.” 

He was a savvy association executive who was so well-liked and well-known that HSMAI’s Best of the Best award is named in his honor. He worked his way up from being an elevator operator in a hotel to being a hotel general manager. Having served in various leadership roles in the association, he was selected by HSMAI’s board as their CEO. Kathie calls him a “one of a kind” person. 

Like her husband, Kathie is one of seven children. She is the middle child, and she remembers her childhood as being “wonderful.” To this day, despite life happenings and moves, Kathie and her siblings are extremely close. She credits her parents with showing them how to treat people and how to treat each other. 

“My parents had an incredible marriage,” Kathie says. “They taught us to listen to people, respect people and to adhere to a strong moral code. They also gave us the blessing of the gift of faith. They encouraged each of us to strive to be the best we could be. They were wonderful examples.” 

Looking to the future
Kathie’s husband recently retired, and, while she will at some point follow in his footsteps, she says, “As long as I can do the job, still enjoy it and am able to contribute, I’ll keep going.”

Due to the COVID pandemic, Kathie said that it’s important that MPI and HSMAI provide return on investment (ROI) to each member. “The associations have to provide members with programming, help with networking, networking opportunities and top-quality education courses that they can’t find anywhere else.” 

By providing ROI to every member and remaining connected, Kathie says that, while there will be a dip in member numbers due to the pandemic, once things settle down, that will, hopefully, turn around.

Kathie’s takeaways
Kathie offers the following wisdom to those who want to follow her path:

  • Maintain the personal touch. Get to know your volunteer leaders and connect with them to create a good working relationship.

  • Nurture the right personal attributes. Association managers must be flexible and able to adapt to different styles of management. Be supportive and willing to listen.

  • Shun negatives. Maintain a “can do” attitude.

  • Consider getting certified. NYU has an excellent events and convention management certification program. NYC College of Technology, St. John’s University, Kingsborough Community College and other local colleges and universities offer a Tourism and Hospitality curriculum, including comprehensive courses in meeting and convention planning.

 

Author

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Tash Benjamin

Tash Benjamin has been a member of MPI Greater New York since 2020 and is an active member of the Communications Committee. Originally from the UK and of Caribbean heritage, she moved to New York as a child and works for TKing Enterprises as its VP of business development.

 

 
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