PCMA Foundation Announces 2022 Visionary Awards Lifetime Achievement Honorees, Groundbreaker Award and Professional Excellence Finalists

As Part of the Inaugural Business Events Industry Week; Fund Established to Honor and Celebrate Chris Wehking

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (December 22, 2021) – The PCMA Foundation is pleased to announce the 2022 PCMA Visionary Awards Lifetime Achievement Honorees, Groundbreaker Award and Professional Excellence Finalists. The annual Visionary Awards, established to honor and celebrate the global business events industry’s exceptional stars, will be held on Thursday, March 24 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. The celebration is in conjunction with the inaugural Business Events Industry Week, powered by Destinations International and PCMA, a week dedicated to convening the global business events industry in the United States Association capital.

The 2022 Lifetime Achievement Honorees are: Mary Pat Heftman, Vice Chair, Exhibitions, Winsight Media; Dr. Eric D. Olson, Chair, Rita & Navin Dimond Department, School of Hospitality, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Kitty Ratcliffe, President, Explore St. Louis. Ben Goedegebuure, Vice President and Global General Manager, Maritz Global Events, a 2021 Lifetime Achievement Honoree will officially be honored in 2022 since he was unable to travel in 2021 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures.

2022 Business Events Strategist Honoree: Mary Pat Heftman

A strategic business leader and industry advocate, Heftman is regarded as an executive who is a champion for others. She has developed, coached, and created rich careers not only for those who work directly with her, but for those who have worked alongside her in volunteer roles.

2022 Educator Honoree: Dr. Eric D. Olson

Dr. Olson develops others by collaborating with faculty members, students, peers, and society. Dr. Olson has supported numerous undergraduate research projects, graduate theses, and dissertations. In fact, one student secured a job because of networking with professionals at Convening Leaders on a trip led by Dr. Olson.

2022 Supplier Honoree: Kitty Ratcliffe

A natural leader, Ratcliffe was among the first advocates for sustainability throughout the business events industry. Her personal involvement in numerous committees and boards of various industry organizations has helped to shape the industry we know today.

2022 Groundbreaker Award

Melissa Cherry, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Senior Vice President, Miles Partnership will receive the PCMA Groundbreakers Award. Now in its second year, the award honors industry trailblazers who represent diverse sectors of the business events community, recognizing those who have made a significant contribution to their organizations and programs that advance inclusion and equity.

“The 2022 Visionary Awards is poised to deliver a well-deserved celebration of our industry and amazing leaders coming together as part of the inaugural Business Events Industry Week,” said Meredith Rollins, PCMA Chief Community Officer and Executive Director, PCMA Foundation. “Our Awards Committee was integral throughout the review process of so many outstanding nominees. We appreciate their continued support as we recognize standouts each year who are helping move our industry forward. This event raises critical funding for the Foundation to provide educational scholarships and implement impactful research and business event industry projects.”

The Foundation funds more than 500 scholarships annually benefiting emerging leaders, students, faculty, and other professionals.

After the recent passing of Chris Wehking, 2014 PCMA Chairman of the Board of Directors and a 2019 PCMA Foundation Lifetime Achievement Honoree, a scholarship fund has been created in his name. Chris contributed much during his time with PCMA and was especially instrumental in the efforts to transform PCMA into a more global association.

“While Chris has left a significant void, we have the opportunity to honor his legacy by turning our sadness into action by paying it forward for the next generation of leaders in our industry,” said Sherrif Karamat, CAE, PCMA president and CEO. “Through founding support from the American Society of Anesthesiologists and PCMA, we will honor Chris’ many contributions by establishing a fund in his name – one that supports future leaders and research/grants to further the business events industry.”

Donations are currently being accepted at https://app.mobilecause.com/f/3mm5/n?vid=o8hzf.

The annual celebration will also recognize 20 Professional Excellence Finalists across six categories for extraordinary contributions to their organizations and their impact on the professional development of others. The recipient in each category will be announced live at the March 24 celebration.

The categories and finalists are:

Business Events Strategist of the Year

Anita Carlyle, CMP, CMM, DES, HMCC, Managing Partner, MCC Events

Kai Hattendorf, CEO, UFI – The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry

Annette Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES, Business Event Strategist, AMS Meetings Solutions


Community Advocate of the Year

Amy Pettigrew, MPA, CMP, Director of Meetings, International Economic Development Council (IEDC)

Molly Witges, CMP, DES, Senior Director, Customer Engagement, Questex

Kristin Nacovsky, CMP, DES, Manager of Conventions and Meetings, International Studies Association


Digital Experience Strategist of the Year

Sina Bünte, CMP, DES, TMPE, HVED, Founder and CEO, DigitalMind.events

Mary Pat Cornett, CAE, CMP, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer, American Society for Nutrition

Sandra Vura Harwood, CMP, Vice President, Meetings and Education/IDWeek Meeting Secretariat, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Mahoganey Jones, CMP, DES, HMCC – EWD, Founder and CEO, Event Specialists


Event Designer of the Year

Sara Haywood, CMP, Assistant Vice President, Conferences, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Darren Mendola, CMP, Vice President, Global Conference & Events, Alzheimer’s Association

Tony Scurry, MBA, CMP, Chief Events Officer, 7 Pointe Planning, Inc.


Outstanding Service to a Chapter

Vicki Johnson, CMP, Principal, Vicki Johnson & Associates, LLC, PCMA Capital Chapter

Megan Martin, CMP, DES, Account Executive, JUNO, PCMA Rocky Mountain Chapter

Ken Sien, CMP, Senior Account Executive, Notified, PCMA POWER Chapter


Supplier of the Year

Carson Edwards, Jr., MBA, CASE, CDMP, Global Account Executive, Marriott International

Danielle Foisy, FASAE, CASE, Director, Business Development & Industry Relations, Transportation Management Services

Rebecca Ramsey, DES, Business Development Executive, Event EQ

Elaine Williams, Director of Sales, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center


The 2022 Visionary Awards celebration is presented by Visit Austin and the Austin Convention Center. Proceeds from the Visionary Awards benefit the PCMA Foundation, which supports the industry and, through its scholarships and programs, empowers students and professionals to advance in their profession. All Honorees and finalists can be viewed here.




For media queries from the Americas, APAC, EMEA, and requests for interviews with Sherrif Karamat, please contact: Meghan Risch, PCMA Chief of Staff, Vice President, Corporate Communications

About PCMA

PCMA, PCMA Foundation and CEMA educate, inspire, and listen, creating meaningful experiences where passion, purpose and commerce come together. We are the world’s largest community for Business Events Strategists, providing senior-level education, networking, and market intelligence for the global business events industry. Our mission is to drive social and economic progress through business events. Headquartered in Chicago, IL PCMA has 17 North American Chapters, regional communities in APAC, EMEA and LATAM, and members in 59 countries. The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA), a PCMA subsidiary, advances strategic event marketing and marketing communications for senior-level event marketers and industry professionals. Visit us at pcma.org.

About PCMA Foundation

The role of the Foundation of PCMA is to support the mission of PCMA through fundraising and grant-giving focused on scholarships, education and research that will advance the business events industry. Annually the Foundation funds over $700K in impact, and since 1985 has funded over 2,500 scholarships, 100 research studies and education programs, and $2.7M in charitable giving.

About CEMA

The Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) is the eminent community for senior event executives, association peers and industry partners and is an integral component of the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) brand collective. CEMA promotes professional networking opportunities, facilitates peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and drives industry standards. Through strong relationships with strategic partners, CEMA fosters both finding innovative solutions to business issues and continuous focus on members’ career growth. For more information, please visit http://www.cemaonline.com.

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