The association industry lost one of its finest champions in mid-January when John Graham IV, FASAE, CAE, longtime president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives, passed away following an extended battle with cancer.
Graham served as president and CEO of the organization since August 2003, though he began a leave of absence last summer. Throughout his 17-year tenure, ASAE more than doubled its membership and developed a wealth of products and services to benefit association professionals. Graham leaves behind the organization as it marks its centennial in 2020, with its now 46,000 members and 7,400 represented organizations.
"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 of ASAE and his personal connection to association management during his 2013 acceptance of the Association Trends' 'Association Executive of the Year' award. "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."
ASAE first announced Graham's cancer diagnosis in June 2019. At that time, Graham said in a statement that the overarching goal of treatment would be a full recovery. "In the interim, I will be working from home," Graham had said of his temporarily stepping down from the day-to-day management of the organization. "I am happy to receive emails and other written communications during this time."
Executive vice president and president of the ASAE Foundation, Susan Robertson, CAE, was named interim president and CEO of the $34 million-revenue society when Graham announced his leave. With Graham's passing, the ASAE board said Robertson will continue to serve the interim position.
"John's passing is a tremendous loss for all of us at ASAE, and a loss that will be felt throughout the entire association profession," said Robertson. "He was a passionate advocate of the power that associations have to create a positive impact on society. During his career in associations he made a lasting impression on many in the profession: I am honored and humbled to have been able to work so closely with John for all of these years, and to call him my colleague, mentor and friend. My deepest sympathies to his beloved family."
Meetings Mean Business, an industry-wide coalition to showcase the importance of face-to-face events, released a statement Tuesday in response to the news of Graham's passing. "John's leadership, counsel and dedication have left a lasting and transformative impact on our industry, to which we are eternally grateful," MMB said in a joint statement from managing director Nan Marchand Beauvois and co-chairs Trina Camacho-London and Fred Dixon. "Our hope is to honor his legacy through our work for years to come."
The Graham family will be holding a private service in Pennsylvania. A memorial service in Washington, D.C., will follow.