As he prepared to live full-time to Texas, where he and his wife, Donna, have a home near their daughters, we sat down for a final interview with the man who leaves behind an astonishing legacy of achievement.
How did RCMA get started?
RCMA was conceived during the opening of the Indianapolis Convention Center in 1972. Three ministers were in attendance at the event, and around the lunch table they brought up the idea of having a small group of representatives from various denominations get together from time to time to “share war stories.” Out of that discussion grew the first RCMA meeting at an inn in Louisville, Ky., in 1973.
Who was the first leader of RCMA?
Leonard Wymore, with the North American Christian Convention, held the title of executive secretary. The name of the organization was then the Religious Convention Managers Association. In 1982, the name was changed to the Religious Conference Management Association.
When were you elected to head RCMA?
February 3, 1982. The office was in our home, in Northfield, Ill. Basically, we placed a desk in my wife's clothes closet. I can remember the phone installer exclaiming that he had installed phones in many places but never in a closet. And I still remember the day a sales rep from a convention bureau showed up at our door. All she had was our address so she was expecting to see an office building. She blurted out, “When you say ‘home office of RCMA,’ you really mean home office!”
What was your vision for RCMA when you first began working for the association? How has that vision changed over the years?
In line with our conference theme for 2012, we “dared to dream” of an association where members could gain increased knowledge in the arts and sciences of religious meeting planning. That purpose has never changed.
What, in your view, are the most significant accomplishments you have made as head of RCMA?
Working with leaders in the industry in the creation of the Certified Meeting Professional program. Developing the Behind-the-Scenes Experiences at RCMA conferences. Creating a financially stable organization, one that has never operated in the red.
What are some of your fondest memories of your years with RCMA?
I enjoyed the rare opportunity to have lengthy private conversations with our conference entertainers, ranging from Bob Newhart and Shirley Jones to Wayne Newton and Ben Vereen. Another great experience that comes to mind: being one of two featured speakers at an industry conference in Tokyo with a totally Japanese audience during the 1980s.
Where do you see the future of religious conferences?
Our technology-focused world will continue to propel people to meet face-to-face with others with whom they share a common faith and purpose. To meet this need for fellowship, there will be an ever-growing number of religious events, and they in turn will attract expanding multitudes of the faithful.
Do you think the future will involve more international connection between religious groups and their meetings?
The future will see the devout traveling to the furthermost ends of the earth to hold their events in venues that may be largely unknown today. The speed and economy of foreign travel and the creation of infrastructures that encourage visitors will drive more international gatherings.
What are your plans for retirement?
We will be packing up our household and moving to the “huge” city of Flower Mound, Texas, where we will be near our two daughters, two grandkids, two granddogs, and one grandhorse.