Garis Distelhorst, CAE, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Marble Institute of America and a well-known leader in the association industry, will retire from MIA December 31, 2012. James Hieb, CAE, the association’s Vice President, will become MIA’s Executive Vice President January 1, 2013.
A Certified Association Executive, Distelhorst is among the most accomplished association leaders in America, with a career spanning 43 years in the industry. He was Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) from 1995 to 1996 where he is remembered for leading the organization into the age of e-mail and the World Wide Web, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the ASAE Foundation from 1992 to 1993 where he led the effort to establish a multi-million dollar endowment. He has also received ASAE’s highest honor, the Key Award.
Prior to joining MIA, he was CEO of the National Association of College Stores (NACS) in Oberlin, Ohio for 18 years. Previously, he was Vice President of SmithBucklin, the country’s largest association management firm, in its Washington, DC office, where he helped grow the client base by nearly 500%.
Distelhorst’s 11-year leadership of MIA helped transform the association into the world’s premier professional stone organization and one of the most dynamic small associations in the nation. He and the staff he attracted expanded member benefits and services and increased membership to record levels; helped guide the transition of StonExpo into one of the largest stone trade shows in the world; established the first professional accreditation for stone fabricators and installers; created an awards program recognizing stone excellence and craftsmanship; expanded MIA’s library of technical publications, videos, and web resources; developed industry education programs, including shop safety training that won ASAE’s “Power of A” Awards; spearheaded outreach to architects and designers and created continuing education programs for design professionals; produced stone promotion campaigns and consumer education materials; and he helped strategize the organization of the Natural Stone Council, a federation of stone industry associations.
Distelhorst’s finest hour at MIA was his leadership of the industry’s response to allegations about radon in granite that began in 2007. Faced with a barrage of negative national media coverage, he marshaled a massive effort funded by MIA members to defuse the crisis with scientific evidence and assure consumers of granite’s safety. Under his steady guidance, MIA turned a business-threatening challenge into a successful consumer education opportunity. The campaign produced millions of hits to MIA’s website and thousands of views of MIA’s “Truth About Granite” web video.
At NACS, Distelhorst oversaw a dramatic expansion of the organization’s programs, member benefits and related operations, including its distribution subsidiary, NACSCORP. During his tenure at NACS, the budget grew by over 900% and the Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) grew over 500% into one of the largest trade shows in America. Sales at the for-profit subsidiary, NACSCORP, grew by nearly 2,000%, requiring the expansion of the distribution center from 25,000 sq. ft. to 150,000 sq. ft. While at NACS, Distelhorst also founded what is now PartnerShip, the association community’s largest and most successful company offering freight and package shipping programs for members. In addition, he founded what is now the NACS Foundation, a tax-exempt subsidiary providing research and other services to the campus store community and other clients.
Distelhorst has also helped lead many community nonprofit organizations and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Lorain County Community College Foundation. He was a prominent leader in Oberlin, Ohio while at NACS, serving as Founder and President of the Oberlin Area Chamber of Commerce, President of the Oberlin Community Improvement Corporation, and Chair of the business and industry sector for the city’s 1983 sesquicentennial celebration. He has also served as President of the United Way of Lorain County and on the Board of Directors of Leadership Lorain County and the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland. Distelhorst graduated from The Ohio State University, and is an avid fan of the Buckeyes.
“It’s been an extraordinary honor and privilege to have spent my career in the association community,” Distelhorst said. “I am grateful for all the great people I have worked with and deeply proud of what we’ve achieved together. I am particularly proud of our record of growth and accomplishment at the MIA and I am thankful to the Board, to MIA members, and to my hard-working staff for all the support I have received and the friends I’ve made.”