Our Society's History

Our Story…

It all began in mid-1978 when a small group of association executives gathered at the offices of Curt Matterson, and engaged in a conversation about the need for an organization that would represent the needs of association professionals across the broad swath of New York State. The group noted that the New York Society of Association Executives (who are celebrating their centennial in 2019) was headquartered in New York City and that many of them could not make it easily down to the city for meetings and events.

The group, which also included Larry O’Brien (Associated Risk Managers of New York State), Rosayne Light (Professional Insurance Agents), Ben Brewster (NYS Association of Life Underwriters), Lloyd Nurick (New York Association of Homes for the Aging), Barbara Rodriguez (NYS Association of Architects), Jan Dorman (New York State Optometric Association), and Charlie Wheeler (Empire State Plaza Convention Center), began correspondence with C.G. Peterman of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), based in Washington, D.C. Mr. Peterman heard the case and agreed with the idea of forming an affiliate in Upstate New York. Our founders began holding planning meetings throughout the fall.

In February 1979, the Association Executives of Upstate New York was inaugurated and at its first official meeting, the following individuals were elected officers: Ben Brewster became the first President, Rosyane Light became Vice President, Curt Matterson became Secretary, and Jan Dorman became Treasurer.

Here is the Society’s History Timeline...

The Society of Association Executives of Upstate New York (SAEUNY) founded; Benjamin Brewster elected first President; Society managed by Matterson Associates (until 1985). 

SAEUNY starts the year with 97 members.         

SAEUNY managed by Capitol Hill Management Services (until 1989).

The Society officially incorporated in New York State; Nurick & Associates takes over management and Nurick employee Penny (Maldonado) Murphy named Executive Director; serves for 26 years until 2015.

Society Membership reaches 300 professionals; George Burton elected President;
Society formally launches the Vanguard Award for service to the profession.

The Society sets-up its own office operation.

SAEUNY becomes the Society of Association Executives of New York State (SAENYS).

SAENYS becomes the Empire State Society of Association Executives (ESSAE)
and the Society celebrates its 15th Anniversary.

The Associate Member of the Year Award established.

The Society celebrates its 20th Anniversary, featuring NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills.

ESSAE starts off the New Millennium with over 400 members.
The Distinguished Member of the Year Award established.

The Vanguard Award officially changed to the George Burton Award.

The Association Leadership Academy (ALA) established and the Society celebrates its 25th Anniversary.

Association Excellence and Rising Star Awards established.

The Rita Lashway Scholarship established to support pursuit of the CAE, Association Leadership Academy or the College of St. Rose/ESSAE Leadership Certificate Program.

Certificate in Nonprofit Management Program established with College of St. Rose.

Vanessa LaClair appointed Executive Director

Society inaugurates Association Advocacy Day at the State Capitol.

ESSAE membership at 470; representing 306 organizations across the state.

The Society celebrates 40 years of service to the profession.

ESSAE adapts and assists its members in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

List of Society Presidents/Chairs 

Past President/Chair History Project

See how the Society celebrated 40 years of service to
the association profession in New York State in 2019.