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Appreciation: LAI founder, CEO Update publisher

Mark French
Mark French

May 10, 2019

Mark French, the creative force behind Leading Authorities Inc. and CEO Update, and a prominent figure in the association community, died May 3. He was 64.

French founded Leading Authorities as a speakers’ bureau in 1990, and grew the company to include live events production, a full-service video agency and publishing.

After LAI purchased CEO Update in 2005, French added editorial content to what had been a C-level jobs-listing service, and hired experienced journalists to write about association news and careers. French later conceived of CEO Update as a membership organization, extending its brand beyond the newsletter and website.

“Anyone who knew Mark knew he didn’t stand still, and from day one, he had an ambitious goal for what CEO Update could be,” said CEO Update Managing Director Mark Graham. “He succeeded beyond my expectations and his legacy will live on.”

In 2014, French launched the annual CEO Update Association Leadership Awards, and later initiated the CEO Update Roundtables for CEOs and other senior executives to network and learn from their peers.

“Mark was deeply committed to associations and championed CEO Update as a way to help association leaders be their best,” said Lynn McNutt, editor-in-chief.

Tom Kuhn, longtime CEO of the Edison Electric Institute, was one of many top association executives close to French.

“Mark was a very dear friend to me and to the entire association community,” Kuhn said.

“His life was characterized by boundless energy, optimism and the endless quest to innovate. The legacy he built at Leading Authorities is a vivid testament to those traits. He also was a warm, caring and thoroughly decent human being. He showed us all how to live and will be deeply missed.”

French willed his way to recovery from a potentially devastating stroke in 2015 and subsequently became an advocate for stroke awareness and prevention. Along with raising money for many organizations, he produced LAI Video’s documentary “A Teachable Moment.” The film follows the lives of French and three other stroke survivors.

French worked closely with association leaders in other major charitable endeavors, such as So Others Might Eat and Bright Beginnings (of which he was a board member), both focused on homeless adults or their children, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

LAI partner and Executive Vice President Rainey Foster, a 22-year LAI veteran, described French as “… ferocious in his loyalty, an insatiable intellect, a serial entrepreneur (and) a force of nature.”

LAI Chief Operating Officer Matt Jones said French leaves behind a solid foundation.

“To his great credit, Leading Authorities is well prepared to continue our mission and growth. He’d have it no other way,” Jones said.

French was born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Dorothy and Harry French, who was a foreign service officer. French was a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where he also received his MBA.

He was an avid traveler and skier.

Before launching Leading Authorities, French’s association career included executive roles at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Trucking Associations.

French was the husband of Carol French; father of Kathleen, Brian and Lauren; and grandfather to Kirsten and Preston.

Memorial donations may be made to the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery, jointly run by Georgetown University and the MedStar National Rehabilitation Network.