Press Release: Association Forum announces award winners to be recognized at Honors Gala 2020

By Adam Natali posted 02-19-2020 17:25


CHICAGO (FEB. 19, 2020)—Association Forum’s Awards & Scholarship Committee met earlier this month to review and judge award applications for five of the association’s most prestigious awards. The following honorees will be recognized at Association Forum’s Honors Gala on June, 18, 2020 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown-Magnificent Mile.

“We are very excited to acknowledge these honorees,” said Association Forum President and CEO Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE.

Each year, the association community gathers at Association Forum’s Honors Gala to celebrate the profession and honor the leaders who strengthen it. The Honors Gala supports the Association Forum Foundation. Association Forum's Foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) organization from the Association Forum. It was founded in 1987 with the purpose of enhancing the Association Forum's programs and services through new education, research and scholarship initiatives.

Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement

The Association Forum is proud to bestow its highest honor, the Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement to Steve Smith, MS, CAE, FAAMSE, CEO of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Smith is being recognized for outstanding service in association management, a demonstrated ability and willingness to serve as a mentor, a proven record of overcoming challenges faced by a CEO, and leadership contributions that significantly and consistently impact the advancement of the profession.


John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award

The John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award is presented for outstanding service to the Association Forum by an individual association or supplier partner member. This year’s winner is Daniel Borschke, MA, FASAE, CAE, Executive Vice President, National Association of Concessionaires. Presented for exceptional, long-term, volunteer service to the Association Forum, primarily through committee service or similar contributions, this award is for the unsung heroes of the association profession.


Association Professional Achievement Award

The Association Professional Achievement Award is presented to an association professional member (not a Chief Executive Officer) for exemplary service and outstanding accomplishments in association management. This award reflects a high level of commitment to professional growth and personal pride in the association management industry. This year’s winner is Lindsey Nelson, CAE, Vice President, Programs & Services, National Automatic Merchandising Association. Nelson is being recognized for her strong investment in the field of association management, demonstrated volunteer service, and willingness to model leadership behavior.


Inspiring Leader Award

The Inspiring Leader Award is presented to an individual who has established a culture leading to employee satisfaction, motivation, engagement and achievement. This year’s winner is Kari Natale, CAE, Senior Director, Planning & Governance, Illinois CPA Society and Senior Director, CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois. Natale has demonstrated support of employee development, offers herself as a mentor, sustains employee morale during challenging times, and models leadership behavior.


Welcoming Environment Organizational Award

The Welcoming Environment Organizational Award is given to an association that has demonstrated exemplary outcomes in providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and culture. This year’s winner is the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). IFT has demonstrated a commitment to creating a Welcoming Environment for not only staff, but also members.


On behalf of Association Forum’s Board of Directors and staff, congratulations to this year’s winners. For more information on the Honors Gala 2020 and to purchase tickets, visit



About Association Forum 
Association Forum’s mission is to "advance the professional practice of association management." Founded in 1916, Association Forum serves 47,000 association professionals whose efforts serve more than 37 million members and generate $22 billion in global annual expenditures. For more information, visit