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When mom or dad is an association CEO

Executives share stories of parental influence

Donahoo and mom
Pam Donahoo and her mother Joyce Laurie

May 11, 2018
By Lori Sharn

Some people get an inside look at associations from a very young age, and then go on—by design or coincidence—to work at associations themselves. To mark Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, CEO Update talked with four association executives about the impact of having a CEO parent on their own careers.
Pam Donahoo got her first association gig when she was 10 years old—behind a registration desk. Her mom was executive director of the Associated Locksmiths of America, and she put Donahoo to work putting convention packets in alphabetical order.

“I went to the conventions every summer,” said Donahoo, now CEO of USFN—America’s Mortgage Banking Attorneys, and previously executive director of American Mensa. “By the time I graduated from high school I had done almost every part of the association that there was.”

Donahoo said her mom, a single parent, was open with her about the challenges of working with a board, overseeing staff and tackling industry issues. Joyce Laurie was promoted to the top role at ALOA in 1973. She left the group in 1985 and worked for several other associations. She has been retired since 2009.

“I look back now and realize how incredible it was,” that Laurie was a leader in a male-dominated industry in the 1970s, Donahue said. She “certainly had a huge influence on my career path and where I am today.”

Brendan McEntee also remembers going to annual meetings with his dad, older brother, and mom Christine McEntee, who has been CEO of three associations, including American Geophysical Union since 2010.

“We would tour around and attend some of the sessions, some of the dinners and events,” he said. “I got to talk with folks who were on her staff or board members.”

He said his mom’s ability to be courageous and to be an advocate influenced his choices: “It taught me that I can chase my dreams and what I do in an association role can have a broader impact.”

He joined the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2011, a year out of college, and now is director of quality and science.

Tom Heidrich said that when he and his two siblings would discuss possible careers, dad Greg Heidrich, executive director of the Society of Actuaries since 2007, would joke, “or you could be an association executive.”

The younger Heidrich took that to heart, majoring in nonprofit management at Indiana University Bloomington and interning at Association Forum. He joined the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers in 2013, where he is now education manager. Heidrich said his dad has been great sounding board and has insights in areas such as governance and working internationally. Heidrich has been to China twice for STLE.

“Association management is a great field,” Heidrich said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that there are a good number of parents and kids in it.”

Megan Markowski planned to coach volleyball after graduating college in 2005 but found few opportunities. Dad Paul Markowski started sending her association job postings. She joined the Association of Clinical Research Professionals. Today, she is executive director of United Dance Merchants of America.

Markowski said she appreciates being able to consult with her dad, now CEO of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

“If I find myself in a precarious situation, which is new or I’m not sure I might be handling it the right way, I definitely will send him a text message or call him,” Markowski said.

She also values being able to vent. “The response I get is, ‘Yes, been there. It stinks, doesn’t it?’ Knowing that he understands ... is nice to have.”

Megan Markowski with her father Paul Markowski at Association Forum's 2015 Honors Gala