Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Do You Replace an Association Legend?

That was the question facing The Ohio State University Alumni Association board during my last year as a director back in 2003.

At the time, our board was in the process of replacing a CEO who had been in the role for about 30 years.

How do you replace a legend ... or long term CEO?

Well, we started by hiring an executive search firm.

And, we concluded by replacing a legend with a legend.

We hired Archie Griffin, an Ohio State icon. Archie is the only college football player to win the Heisman Trophy twice. After professional football, he had returned to Ohio State and, at the time of his hire, was serving in the Athletics Department.

I can still remember when the head hunter called me and asked me what I thought about having Archie become the OSUAA’s CEO.

“Are you kidding?” I answered. “Our members would love it. Archie is well known and highly regarded. If we can get him, it would be a major coup.”

Well, we were able to get him. And, now, after serving 11+ years, he is stepping down.

You can read more about Archie’s amazing story in Buckeye for Life Extraordinaire
  • One of Archie’s major achievements involved transitioning The Ohio State University Alumni Association from a dues-paying membership organization to one in which all graduates — currently more than 500,000 strong — are members. 
  • “We spent a lot of time trying to get members because that was our survival,” Griffin said. “Now, we spend a lot of time finding ways to engage our alumni in the life of our university.”
Now, this OSUAA board of directors is faced with the same question we were 12 years ago: How do you replace a legend?

As Boomers continue retiring at huge rates, many associations will face this question. Our long-time CEO is retiring, now what?

It is a major challenge.

I don’t have an answer.

Unless you can find another legend!

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