An Interview of Outgoing and Incoming NYSAE Chairs

By Jennifer Ian

Nonprofits and associations are surrounded by challenge these days, including the faster pace of change, choosing and embracing new technologies, competition from the internet and other free information sources, globalization, and articulating their unique value proposition to their members. NYSAE has stepped up its focus on the future by examining its strategic direction, developing new initiatives, and recently adopting a new tagline to better reflect who they are today.

With that in mind, I recently interviewed NYSAE’s outgoing president Michael Weamer, President and CEO of the MARFAN Foundation, and Gerry Thiers, incoming president and Executive Director of ASAH, which serves the private special education community, about the changes and challenges and how they have benefitted from their involvement with the NYSAE. Here is that interview:


1. NYSAE recently adopted a new tagline:
Where Non-Profit and Association Leaders Connect, Innovate and Grow. How do you think the organization helps its members to “Connect, Innovate and Grow?”

MICHAEL WEAMER: To me, one of NYSAE’s greatest strengths is in connecting people. When I was new to New York and building my career, I was blessed with many NYSAE colleagues to support my growth and companies that always came to my rescue through associate members. Plus, becoming a CAE provided a very strong professional foundation and a whole network of new friends.

GERRY THIERS: “Connect” is what we do. NYSAE offers numerous professional development and networking events, 24 this year! That includes evening receptions plus receptions at the start of summit programs. Attendees are flooded with information to use to improve their associations and grow professionally and personally as they use new ideas and problem-solve with their peers to enhance the association experience.

2. MICHAEL and GERRY – How have you seen NYSAE change and advance in recent years? (Relating again to the tagline of ‘connect, innovate, and grow’)
MICHAEL: We now have a very strong foundation, engaged board and membership, a strategic direction and innovative plans to grow NYSAE. The blueprint for success is in place!

GERRY: We have to recognize the great work done by our previous chair, Michael Weamer. Mike’s “NYSAE 2.0” initiative led to a sweeping look at how the association can better serve its members over the next three years. This led to new initiatives, such as providing a diverse array of educational opportunities and creating CEO Connect for seasoned association leaders.

3. MICHAEL and GERRY – While non-profits and associations each have their unique challenges, what would you say are the top challenges that face the majority of them?
MICHAEL: I believe the biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining top talent, especially in light of a very different, non-traditional workforce and move to a more virtual environment. I also believe the value proposition is critical in everything we do and we must be far more effective measuring impact.

GERRY: I would say membership and maintaining networks of personal communication between association members. Advances in information technology have threatened associations’ traditional role as the “go to” organizations for best practice and industry trends and they need to develop new avenues to fulfill their core role. While some of this can be done virtually, the opportunity for personal interaction and problem-solving is essential.

4. Michael, what are you most proud of from your recent year as NYSAE Chair?
MICHAEL: I guess the feeling of believing I am leaving behind a strong organization with capable leadership and a blueprint for success. “Engagement” is now critical!

5. GERRY, what are you looking forward to in your year as Chair?
GERRY: I look forward to implementing NYSAE 2.0 with great people! Together we can expand our membership and offer a wide array of education, program and special interest offerings. And hopefully by this time next year we will be working on “3.0” as NYSAE celebrates its 100th anniversary!

6. How has your NYSAE participation benefitted you and the organizations you’ve worked for?
MICHAEL: I feel blessed to have been involved with this community for close to three decades. GERRY: NYSAE has increased my organization’s awareness of regional and national issues. For example, the Federal Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rule had a direct negative impact on some communities in New York and New Jersey. NYSAE and our national organization, ASAE, helped to make the Administration and Congress aware of the consequences. NYSAE’s involvement put us “ahead of the curve” on this issue.

Jennifer: Thank you both for your time and your service – it’s been a pleasure working with both of you!

Jennifer Ian is the Director of Membership and Chapter Relations at the American Thoracic Society and a NYSAE board member.

Gerry Thiers is the Executive Director, ASAH (serving the private special education community) and current chair of NYSAE.

Michael Weamer is President and CEO, MARFAN Foundation (serving those with MARFAN syndrome) and the immediate past chair of NYS