Each year at the ACSM Annual Meeting Friday evening banquet the current ACSM President is recognized and thanked for their contributions to the college. At this time, the President-elect is brought to the stage, a ceremonial passing of the gavel occurs, and the new President begins their duties by leading the Saturday Board of Trustees meeting.
This year, however, was different. Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Annual Meeting in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this ceremony occurred virtually.
A letter from ACSM's 63rd President, William Kraus, M.D., FACSM
To ACSM Executive Leadership, Past Presidents and Leadership, Board of Trustees, Valued Members, Certified Professionals and Staff:
First, I hope that you and yours are safe and healthy in this trying time for America and the world.
Over my last few days as your ACSM president, and during the week following the annual meeting where I would normally share my reflections on the past year as part of the Town Hall/Business Meeting, I thought I would share some departing thoughts with you about the current state of the college and our bright future. I will try to be brief with a complex story line: our college is healthy and in a good position looking to the future.
To say the least, the last year has not been without its challenges; but, the strength of an organization is evidenced by its ability to meet such challenges. We have met our challenges in the last year, with success and progress. To name just a few:
- CEO Leadership. We successfully transitioned to new leadership at the CEO position. After an 11-month international search for a new Chief Executive Officer, Kristin Belleson was a unanimous choice of the search committee. She started on February 3 and almost immediately was confronted with leadership challenges, including COVID-19 in the making—more on that later. Kristin is still learning about our complex member-driven organization, but her quick study has strengthened ACSM in ways that are daily more apparent.
- Capital Campaign. We began the early phases of a capital campaign, bringing new financial strength to the ACSM Foundation to support our research and educational missions.
- New Home for the National Center. We entertained supporting a new building project for the college to house not only our own enterprise, but others in Indianapolis with similar missions—physical activity and sport for health.
- Management Operating System. We adopted a new continuous improvement science management operating system for the college, providing us with new, powerful ways of making decisions about resource allocations.
- Publications Contracting. After prolonged negotiations involving the Publications Committee and ACSM staff leadership, we concluded a new 10-year contract with our publishers, Wolters Kluwer.
- COVID-19 Pandemic. As if all of this was not challenging enough, COVID-19 came along and presented us with new challenges, interrupting the progress being made.
- Meetings. Most urgent was the challenge to our in-person meetings: ACSM’s International Health & Fitness Summit in March and ACSM’s Annual Meeting and World Congresses, which we were to be holding this week in San Francisco. With respect to the latter, the pandemic put at risk not only the hard work of planning such a complicated meeting, but also significant financial contractual obligations to the city of San Francisco and hotel sponsor. Working as a team, with a lot of hard work by volunteer leadership and our staff—including Kristin, we came out of the crisis with minimal damage to the long-term financial position of the college. This contrasts with that of many of our sister professional organizations.
- Staff Working Environment. Of course, all staff members have had to adapt to a new COVID-19 working environment off site, putting strain on normal working relationships and our information systems.
The future is bright, but challenges remain.
- The information technology infrastructure at the National Center is sorely outdated. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed this viability even more.
- We have similar financial contractual obligations as we had for summit and annual meeting for our future meetings going several years forward. We all love the summit and annual meeting every year. However, we need to be smart in how we plan for them in the coming years.
The ACSM volunteer leadership team, in partnership with our staff leadership, will meet these barriers with the same success that was demonstrated when facing previous challenges over this and the last several years. Why am I so confident? Because, over the recent past, the leadership from the Executive Council through the Administrative Council, has learned how to truly work as a team, partnered with the outstanding professional ACSM staff from the CEO down, and used steady consultative and collective decision making to steer the present and future of the college.
I wish and need to thank the past presidents with whom I have worked closely—Liz Joy and Walt Thompson—for starting this new operating paradigm, ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, and our incoming ACSM President NiCole Keith for making this new paradigm come to life this year; and welcome to ACSM President-Elect Bruce Gladden to the team. Finally, I would be remiss in not thanking Kristin Belleson, Tim Calvert, Lynette Craft, Katie Feltman, Deondra Wardelle and the rest of the ACSM staff for their leadership and support through all of this.
Finally, I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead the college over the last year. It takes a village, and none of this is possible without your personal and professional commitments to ACSM—all that you do as an individual volunteer and member to advance the missions of the college. You are the key to ACSM’s continued success. Please continue your membership—it is why ACSM exists and why the college in its vast entirety successfully functions as it does.