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Marketing pioneer to receive MMA award

C. Gordon Houser, a marine marketing veteran who helped transform yachting into recreational boating by making the sport more appealing to middle-class Americans, will receive the Marine Marketers of America's first Neptune Award for Lifetime Achievement on Thursday during the Miami International Boat Show.

Houser launched his boating career in 1954 with the Thompson Boat Co., and he transferred to Chris-Craft when Thompson was acquired. Houser became marketing manager, director and vice president before he and Dick Genth took over Donzi Marine in 1985.

Houser was executive vice president and then president of Donzi until Outboard Marine Corporation bought it and later closed it. He moved on to Wellcraft as president of the high performance group, served a stint as marketing vice president at Wellcraft, and headed marketing for Genmar's group of companies in Sarasota, Fla.

Houser was one of the first to recognize that non-endemic publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Cigar Aficionado, were especially productive as advertising outlets for selling boats, particularly during the New York National Boat Show.

He also pioneered the use of schools as a way of marketing boats, inventing the Wellcraft Offshore Boot Camp for Scarab owners, the Wellcraft Offshore Fishing School and the Genmar Backwater Fishing School.

At the forefront of promoting boating as an exciting avocation, he introduced Scarab jet boat races at the newly opened Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Fla., to draw crowds and sell boats. He collaborated with major Hollywood studios, serving as a technical adviser on films such as "On Golden Pond." He not only advised, but also staged the famous boat-crash scene in that movie.

Houser was on a number of National Marine Manufacturers Association committees and he said his greatest satisfaction came from his years on the NMMA shows committee. He served twice on that panel, once as its chairman.

Houser retired from Genmar in 2004, recently celebrated his 80th birthday and lives in Sarasota with his wife, Vida.

"Gordon Houser is an industry trailblazer who helped to transform recreational boating into a multibillion-dollar industry that serves more than 10 million boat owners. MMA is very proud to present this distinguished award to one of our industry's marketing and promotional giants, who has been an inspiration to many of us," MMA president Wanda Kenton Smith said in a statement.

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