Terence Donnelly, CMP, CEM, passed away on July 20. Donnelly had recovered from a life-threatening cardiac arrest in December, and his death came as a shock to many of his colleagues and friends.
Donnelly joined Experient, a Maritz Global Travel company, in 2005 as vice president after years working in the hospitality and event technology sectors. He specialized in new account acquisition at Experient, overseeing the corporate and trade-show markets.
“We lost one of the truly great gentlemen of our industry last week,” said David Peckinpaugh, CMP, CIS, president of Maritz Global Travel. “Terence embodied the ideals of our company and his loss is devastating to our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers are with [wife] Regina and their entire family.”
In a post on Experient’s Facebook page Monday, Donnelly’s colleagues paid tribute to him, writing, “To say Terence will be greatly missed would be an understatement. Both our company and our industry are better because he was a part of it. He left a mark on all of us that will never be forgotten.”
Donnelly gave of his time generously, whether it was working on the project attrition task force and the registration and housing commission for the CIC (now the Events Industry Council, or EIC) and APEX initiatives, as a moderator for Tradeshow News Network’s weekly #Expochat, on IAEE’s ROI task force, or the many ways he actively supported PCMA.
As a member of PCMA’s Advocacy Committee in 2018, Donnelly “was instrumental in aligning PCMA and Meetings Mean Business’s efforts to streamline activities surrounding Global Meetings Industry Day and involving the local chapters,” said Jacky Meracle, CMP, who heads chapter and member services at PCMA.
Dahlia El Gazzar, owner of Dahlia+ Agency, worked with Donnelly at Experient, Passkey, and on projects through PCMA and IAEE. “He was always there for me since Day 1 in the industry,” she told Convene. He brought “a certain light and energy” that everyone wanted to be around, she said.
“The ultimate netweaver who not only lit up a room, he was the boss in connecting people with each other,” she added. “We forever will tell Terence stories and feel his energy around us. His energy will continue to flood our lives from the other side. Just watch.”
Sam Bhandarkar, CMP, CASE, event placement director for LRP Publications, told Convene he became friends with Donnelly over their shared passion for advocacy within and on behalf of the business events industry. In a LinkedIn post, Bhandarkar wrote that his “confidant and mentor” showed him the ropes in national volunteer service when he began volunteering with PCMA’s Advocacy Committee. The friends also worked together as Meetings Mean Business ambassadors, he wrote.
“His passion for our industry was second to none, and his commitment to meaningful advocacy was unwavering. A fellow Patriots fan, Terence and I connected both professionally and personally,” Bhandarkar wrote on LinkedIn. “I, like so many of you, will sorely miss my friend.”
Bhandarkar told Convene that Donnelly didn’t take his survival from heart failure lightly. “He immediately recognized that there is nothing in life that we can take for granted,” Bhandarkar said.
Donnelly survived thanks to the fast actions of CPR-trained hotel staff members in New Orleans, Bhandarkar said, where Donnelly was attending Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition, in December. He made two resolutions while recovering: to re-center his life on his wife and children, and to do everything in his power to help ensure that he never would lose a friend of family member to heart failure. The two men planned to introduce CPR training as a business events industry standard.
“It was only natural for Terence to immediately see an opportunity to achieve his goal by starting with our community of business events professionals,” Bhandarkar told Convene. “He said that there was absolutely no reason why every meetings professional should not be trained in basic life-saving CPR.”
Bhandarkar plans to continue with the effort, he said, and hopes to work with PCMA to advance an industry-wide CPR training initiative. “I feel like the rest of us can help him to see through [this] resolution as a legacy to our friend who was always giving back to us,” he added.
Donnelly’s medical emergency already had inspired Carrie Ferenac, Convention News Television (CNTV) president and owner, to train her staff in CPR. “We were so happy that someone knew CPR and was able to save his life, we wanted our team members to be able to do the same,” she told Convene.
“I’ve seen a common thread among all the tributes to Terence that ring so true for me: He welcomed people into in the industry, and generously shared his passion and his knowledge. His enthusiasm was contagious,” she said. “If you were lucky enough to have met Terence, you were lucky enough.”
Donnelly is survived by his wife, Regina Rink, director of Northeast sales for the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and sons Justin and Colin. His funeral will be 11 a.m. August 1 at St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., with visitation at 10 a.m. A celebration of his life will be follow the service, but the location is yet to be decided.