Robertson First Woman To Head ASAE

Susan Robertson, CAE, was appointed president and CEO of ASAE/The Center For Association Leadership on an 18-month engagement. She had been interim president and CEO since this past June when John Graham IV stepped down after a cancer diagnosis and subsequently died.

Robertson will be the first woman to lead Washington, D.C.-based ASAE as president and CEO in its 100-year history.

The ASAE board also announced that a national search for the next president and CEO will begin in October 2020, with the intention of a new CEO beginning September 1, 2021. Information about the executive search will be posted on ASAE’s website, in CEO Update and other pertinent industry publications. 

Robertson will oversee all ASAE operations, including Centennial related activities and a recent board-approved strategic planning process. Robertson has more than 19 years of experience at ASAE, including most recently as executive vice president of ASAE, and president of the ASAE Research Foundation.

“Susan has the board’s full confidence as a chief staff executive,” said ASAE Board Chair Patricia Blake, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the Heart Rhythm Society. “ASAE continues to thrive as an organization under her leadership, and continuity is very important for ASAE during its Centennial and beyond. The board looks forward to working with Susan to give her the volunteer support she will need to ensure ASAE meets and exceeds the expectations of its members, volunteers, industry partners and other important stakeholders. This board decision provides clarity for Susan, the staff and the ASAE community.”

Said Robertson: “I’m thankful for the board’s confidence and look forward to working with them and the great ASAE staff to keep us firmly on course as an organization.” Robertson said. She continued, “I work with a very talented team, and together we fully understand and truly appreciate that ASAE represents the entire association community. We do not take that responsibility lightly, and everything we do is with an eye toward giving association leaders the tools and resources they need to be successful in their own organizations.”

Graham died in this past January. Graham had led ASAE since Aug. 1, 2003, after 24 years at the American Diabetes Association (ADA). He served as CEO during his last 13 years at ADA, reorganizing it from 53 independent, separately incorporated affiliates into one national organization. During his tenure, ADA quadrupled in size, from $50 million to $200 in annual revenues.

During Graham’s ASAE tenure, the organization more than doubled membership and developed products and services to benefit association professionals and their partners. The ASAE board approved a diversity, equity, and inclusion fund established through the ASAE Research Foundation. The fund will remain partially restricted to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, which will allow resources from the fund to be allocated to any DEI program as needed, as guided by volunteers and determined by staff.

“John’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives throughout his career has made a lasting impact in the association community,” said Blake. “While we continue to mourn his passing, the establishment of this fund will ensure his passion for DEI will continue.”

ASAE’s board of directors has approved a cash distribution of $100,000 to commemorate Graham and ignite fundraising for the Fund. Additionally, the ASAE board has approved a match of all gifts at a 1:1 ratio. ASAE members, associations, industry partners, and friends who choose to honor Graham in this way can expect 100 percent of these funds to support the various diversity, equity, and inclusion programs of ASAE, according to a statement from the organization. 

“The decision of the ASAE Fellows and Past Chairs to establish this fund in John’s memory is a fitting tribute,” said Susan Robertson, CAE, Interim ASAE president and CEO. “His commitment to DEI will be reflected through the experiences of the next generation of association professionals who will benefit from the future programs this fund will help support.”