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The Honorees

The Honorees are individuals who have made outstanding achievements in advancing the association management profession, and we're thrilled to celebrate their contributions to the industry at the Honors Gala. This event is an opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of those who have gone above and beyond to significantly impact our field, and who truly embody the spirit of our industry. 

Join us as we celebrate the best of the best in the association management profession, and honor those who have made a lasting impact on our field. Purchase your tickets today and let's recognize the outstanding achievements of our colleagues!
Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement
Stephanie Mercado

Stephanie Mercado, CAE, CPHQ, Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director, National Association for Healthcare Quality

About the Award
The highest honor that Association Forum bestows on an association professional, the Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement, is presented to the chief staff executive (e.g. CEO, executive director, or equivalent level) for outstanding service and accomplishments in association/nonprofit management. The award is named after Samuel B. Shapiro, CAE, past chairman of Association Forum and the American Society of Association Executives. Recipients of this award have made outstanding accomplishments in their professional and personal lives.

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John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award—Association Professional
Josie Hernandez, IOM, Account Executive, Bostrom

About the 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 award has been presented for exceptional, long-term, volunteer service to the Association Forum, primarily through committee service or similar contributions. “Unsung hero” or “above and beyond the call of duty” are two ways to describe past recipients. This award is named in memory of the late John C. Thiel, CAE, the Association Forum’s chairman-elect in 1990-91. In 2010, the Thiel Award was expanded to include both association professionals and supplier partners. 

Association Professional Achievement Award
Zack Wahlquist

Zack Wahlquist, MS, CAE, Chief Operating Officer, Chicago Association of REALTORS®

About the Award
The Association Professional Achievement Award is presented to an association professional member (not a CEO) 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.

Inspiring Leader Award
Gabriela Welch, MPA, CAE, ICE-CCP, Vice President of Certifications and Standards, Association for Supply Chain Management

About the Award
The Inspiring Leader Award is presented to an individual who has established a culture leading to employee satisfaction, motivation, engagement, and achievement.
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Welcoming Environment® Organizational Award
ASA American Society of Anesthesiologists®

About the Award

The Welcoming Environment Organizational Award is awarded to an association that has demonstrated exemplary outcomes in providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and culture.


Woman of Influence™ Award
Jackie Price Osafo Jacqualine Price Osafo, MBA, CAE, is the Executive Director of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). A tireless advocate for embracing new perspectives within our profession and her association, she finds purpose and positivity in everything she does and mentors those who may benefit from her journey. She embraces innovation in her approaches and ensures that SAA and other associations are at the forefront of making an impact in people's lives. She has presented on more than fifty occasions for Association Forum, ASAE, AfSAE, and other associations. She is an active volunteer and received the John C. Theil Award in 2022 and the Professional Achievement Award in 2017. 

The 2023 Woman of Influence Award was presented at the 2023 Women's Executive Forum™


View all past award recipients here

About the Honors Awards

Association Forum’s Honors Awards program provides accolades and recognition to outstanding association professionals and supporting partner members of Association Forum for their outstanding achievements in advancing the association management profession.

The award categories include:
  • Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement
  • John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award—Association Professional & Supporting Partner
  • Inspiring Leader Award
  • Association Professional Achievement Award
  • Welcoming Environment® Award
  • Woman of Influence Award 

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Honoring Chris Mahaffey, MS, CAE, FASAE

In addition to our Honorees, we will be recognizing the incredible work of the late Chris Mahaffey, former CEO of Association Forum. Read more about his life and legacy.