BoatUS president and publisher Nancy Michelman died Oct. 7 at the age of 60 after a yearlong battle with cancer.
“A selfless leader with an infectious laugh and the gift of inspiring others to get together and do their best, Nancy’s courageous fight was marked by her optimism and energy,” the association said in a statement.
Michelman was a self-described “Jersey Girl” who began sailing at summer camp in Maine as a child and grew up with a love of boating. In 1989, while she was with the American Automobile Association, BoatUS founder Richard Schwartz was impressed with her energy and intelligence and hired her to run the membership department, manage partner relationships and grow benefits and services.
During her tenure, BoatUS membership grew from 350,000 to a record-high 650,000. In addition to the president’s role, she became publisher of BoatUS Magazine, the association’s flagship publication.
“Nancy was from a cadre of professionals who built BoatUS into the organization we are so proud of today,” Schwartz said in a statement. “With her, it was always about generosity, passion, engagement and loyalty and having the most fun while you are at it. She encouraged our staff to work on common goals and never forgot that helping members was our No. 1 responsibility.”
Michelman’s relationship with members was personal. She often picked up the phone to hear a member’s point of view. The personal touch was genuine. She even shared the story of her illness in one of her editorials in BoatUS Magazine. For months afterward, members shared their own stories and words of encouragement.
“As she did with colleagues, Nancy made every member feel part of something extraordinary, as though they were very special to her personally, because they were,” BoatUS CEO Bill Oakerson added in a statement. “As stellar as Nancy’s leadership and business results were, her greatest gift is that she opened her heart to others and taught us through her own optimism that joy can be found all around us — in our work, friendships and aboard our boats. Part of her enduring legacy and vision is that she put a top management team in place — in government affairs, in our membership division and in our publications — that carries on her good work, her dedication to the needs of boaters and her standard of excellence.”