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Tales and Tributes to Susan Sarfati

It was a poignant evening of tribute tonight at The Witherby in San Diego as Susan Sarfati, outgoing CEO & President of The Center for Association Leadership and Executive Vice President of ASAE, was toasted by more than 400 industry and association professionals, many of whom had known her for decades.

Lori Derkay, who has served as a right arm and longtime staff advisor to Susan, called her “a force of nature” who inspired women and men throughout the association world by using her unique leadership skills to forever pursue the “wow” factor, in part by shunning incrementalism in favor of the bold move.

Lori’s list of wow accomplishments included moving the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives from a small DuPont Circle townhouse to the prestigious Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, launching the Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series that ran 13 years and featured everyone from U.S. presidents to Hollywood celebrities to top leaders from every sector of influence in the world, and pioneering the innovative Center for Association Leadership.

Susan’s many friends, staff, and peers lined up to laud her devotion to the association community, her gift for mentoring others—particularly women—into leadership positions, her endless energy and optimism, and her ability to convince people to do things they “wouldn’t do for anyone else.”

Her daughter, son-in-law, and grandbaby also spoke from the heart about Susan’s commitment to family and friends, her passion for furthering social responsibility within the association sector, her strength as an individual and professional, and their belief in her continuing success in the future.

Susan received a custom-designed diamond pendant and responded to the high praise with words of wry humor, love, and enthusiasm for both her past involvement in associations and her anticipation of the next stage of her career.

I’ll let others share the details of the new professional direction on which she’ll embark, but I want to echo the love and respect shared tonight for a woman who has influenced so much within our sector and our organization, within her colleagues and her staff. No one can truly take her place. I can only hope that the ideals and faith that she always demonstrated in the ability of associations and the people running them to better the world will remain and grow.



She might have done great things for the industry but she was hard to work for. She didn't understand that sometimes, family came before work. As a young mom, she ostracized me on several occasions when I had to leave work for my sick baby.

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