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Pandemic, personal tragedy alter association CEO landscape in 2020

Despite need to interview, hire and manage new employees remotely, leadership shuffle went on; three CEOs suffered untimely deaths

GrahamFormer ASAE CEO John Graham, who died in January.

Dec. 11, 2020
By William Ehart 

The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled many CEO transition plans in 2020. Some departures were delayed and the hiring process went remote. But the need for new leadership remained paramount for many associations, even with the knowledge that many new CEOs would have to manage people and operations virtually. At least a dozen groups that had appointed interim CEOs decided to name them permanently to the top job.

The year began pre-shutdown, with the deaths of ASAE CEO John Graham, in January, and former Helicopter Association International CEO Matt Zuccaro in February, just weeks after his retirement. Also in February, four-decade National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors CEO Dirk Van Dongen, a fixture in Republican politics since the Reagan years, announced his pending retirement.