Grady-White Boats president Kris Carroll will be the latest inductee to the National Marine Manufacturers Hall of Fame in a virtual ceremony Sept. 29 at 10:30 EDT, coinciding with the opening session of 2020 IBEX Online.
“I’m humbled and privileged to bestow the 2020 NMMA Hall of Fame Award to Kris Carroll, for her 45 years of dedication, love and service to Grady-White and the recreational boating industry,” said NMMA president Frank Hugelmeyer in a statement. “It is a particular honor to note that as our first female recipient, Kris has blazed a trail for future female marine leaders, and her legacy will be imprinted on our industry for generations to come.”
Carroll, who moved from Massachusetts to Greenville, N.C., in 1975, took a job as a production control clerk at Grady-White Boats.
She was then moved to engineering as a clerk, and she worked her way up to leadership in that department, also serving as a member of the NMMA Technical Committee for 10 years. She gravitated to the same principles as Grady-White founder Eddie Smith, another NMMA Hall of Famer, including building strong dealer relationships and putting customers first.
In the late 1980s, Carroll became vice president of engineering and vice president of manufacturing at Grady-White.
In 1992, she was promoted to executive vice president, and was named president the following year — making her the very first woman to work her way up through the ranks to become president of a boat manufacturer.
“Kris embodies all the traits, characteristics and accomplishments of a Hall of Fame member,” said Regulator Marine president Joan Maxwell. “She has recruited many industry leaders to join the NMMA Divisional Boards and shared the gifts of her time, experience, knowledge and friendship. I am grateful for Kris’ mentoring and most of all for her friendship. Proverbs 27:9 says ‘A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.’ Thanks, Kris for refreshing my soul!”
“Kris has been a mentor to so many in the boating industry,” echoed Yamaha Motor Corp. USA president Ben Speciale. “Throughout her career, she committed herself to the improvement of both Grady-White and the entire boating ecosystem. Her ability to assemble and inspire, her steadfast beliefs, genuine attitude and hard work set an example for all of us. Congrats to my deserving colleague and friend on the NMMA Hall of Fame!”
Also following in founder Smith’s footsteps, Carroll has been a tireless advocate for the marine industry, attending American Boating Congress sessions and becoming an early champion for the industry’s BoatPAC.
She serves on the board of directors for the NMMA, as well as the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the advisory councils and boards at BoatUS, the Center for Sportfishing Policy, and is the past chairwoman of the NMMA Boat Manufacturers’ Division board.
“She has always stepped up, for her company, for her peers, and for the industry, and in turn she’s taught us all to step up,” said Contender Boats Inc. president Joe Neber.
She was the first and only woman on the NMMA board and on the NMMA Tech Certification committee for some time, she told Trade Only Today in a 2014 article, Band of Sisters.
“I was always treated respectfully, and I never felt singled out as a woman. I assumed they knew I was a woman, and it didn’t seem to make a difference when working on issues,” Carroll said. “I never saw it detract from the issue at hand.”
Carroll received the Marine Retailer Association of the Americas’ 2002 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year Award.
She has also been celebrated by the Center for Sportfishing Policy with the 2012 Eddie Smith Manufacturer of the Year Award for her dedication to conservation efforts and service to the organization and the Board, as well as the NMMA’s 2018 Hammond Marine Leadership Award honoring her advocacy efforts.
“Kris has been very good about developing the relationships with women and helping people come along,” Maxwell said in the article. “Her organization has a lot of women in it, and she helped me by inviting me to different things and inviting me to be involved in the NMMA. So we do have influence inside and out of the industry.”