After a long illness, former PCMA president and CEO Roy B. Evans, Jr., CAE, died July 9 at the age of 83. Evans was a highly respected and transformative leader in the meetings industry.
He joined PCMA as a member in 1961. In 1975, after 20 years of service with the Southern Medical Association, where he served as executive director, Evans was named president of PCMA. At the time, PCMA had only 500 members and was focused on providing education to medical meeting planners. He became president and CEO in 1982.
While at PCMA’s helm, Evans was responsible for many achievements. He expanded PCMA’s education, products, services, and membership categories to include those who weren’t employed by nonprofits, as well as CEOs, and included professors and students in PCMA programs. He established the PCMA Education Foundation, created and served as publisher of Convene magazine in 1986, established PCMA’s iconic Party With a Purpose, oversaw the formation of chapters, and launched pcma.org in 1997.
Evans retired from PCMA in 2000, when the association still was headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. He made many lifelong friends at PCMA and referred to his time there as the “Camelot Days,” according to his obituary in the July 12 edition of The Birmingham News.
Sherrif Karamat, PCMA’s current President and CEO, paid tribute to Evans. “Roy Evans was a beloved pioneer and a visionary who provided the framework that makes PCMA the global leader in the business events industry today,” he said. “We are forever grateful for his dedication to PCMA, our industry and profession, and will miss him dearly.”
In addition to his service at PCMA, Evans served as chair of the Convention Industry Council (now the Events Industry Council), and was inducted into its Hall of Leaders in 1993. A YouTube video tribute to Evans was produced in 2011, and posted to his Hall of Leaders page. (Watch video below.)
In that video, Michael Payne, executive VP and managing director, SmithBucklin, said, “Three words that would describe Roy Evans for me would be leadership, creativity, and education. Because I think those three things personified what Roy did as head of PCMA for all the years that he ran it.”
“Roy Evans’ legacy will live on forever at PCMA,” said Jonathan Tisch, who is now co-chairman of the board of Loews Corporation and chairman and CEO of its Loews Hotels subsidiary, in the video. “He took this organization, he transformed it, he grew it, he raised the visibility to a point now where it is one of the leading associations in the travel and tourism and meetings industry. You cannot look to the future of PCMA, which is very bright, without understanding the past, which was created by Roy Evans.”
Evans reflected on his own career in the video, saying, “I think being involved in this industry gave me an opportunity to help other people. My favorite aspect of the industry is the people, the personal relationships you develop, and the intellectual stimulation of being around your peers.”
Convene reached out to several of his peers following word of his passing, and it’s clear that that focus on cultivating relationships as well as his passion for the industry made a deep and lasting impact.
“When I think of Roy Evans, I think of a man that was a strong leader and a force in the meetings industry,” said Bruce Harris, founder and chairman emeritus of Conferon. “Roy was not shy and not afraid to take a risk to advance the industry that he loved. There are many people that have made contributions to the improvement in the quality of meetings and events, but few that can be credited with transforming the quality of an industry through education and innovation. Education and innovation were Roy’s hallmarks and PCMA was the delivery vehicle.
“Roy was the type of maverick that we needed to challenge the status quo and develop better practices,” Harris continued. “His passing is a loss for all that knew him and all that followed in his giant footsteps. He can be proud that the PCMA that he founded and led continues to innovate and impact enormous components of the events and hospitality industry.”
James Youngblood, who until May was CEO of the Heart Rhythm Society and is a former trustee and chair of the PCMA Foundation, said Evans “was very important to me early in my career. He sort of adopted me when I first got involved with PCMA, and encouraged me and mentored me through my leadership roles. He was an enormous contributor to our field, and I will miss him.”
Evans “was a master visionary and relationship builder,” said David R. Evans, who retired in 2000 as a senior vice president, Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Roy Evans was a mentor who built bridges and created lifelong friendships, and “our industry’s Number One pioneer,” he said.
“He was the first leader in meeting planning industry to bridge the gap between the supplier and meeting planner,” added Evans, who was the first suppler to sit on the PCMA Executive Committee. Roy Evans’s vision to create the PCMA Foundation, which included suppliers as members and chairs of its board, “changed the meetings industry forever.”
Brian Stevens, founding president and CEO of ConferenceDirect, said: “Roy Evans and I met in 1985 and have been friends ever since that day. He made PCMA a safe place for vendors and customers to gather and collaborate to grow our profession and education.
“Once we were talking about starting an event similar to ASAE’s Five-Star weekend. Roy said, ‘All of our members want more education on software.’ Rather than a pure social networking event, we started the PCMA Software Summit. It still had golf and spa components, but Roy always wanted to deliver education. Unlike the other industry foundations, ours was called the PCMA Education Foundation because of Roy’s vision to add that element to almost everything we did.
“I served for 16 years with Roy on the board of the Foundation. During that time, we started the Foundation Dinner, Party With a Purpose, and the Summit — all in the name of raising money for education, which was mostly targeted to young professionals, students, and people seeking CMPs or CMMs.
“Roy made everyone feel special and kept us all laughing. May he rest in peace.”
Services were July 14 at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook, Alabama. In lieu of flowers, Evans asked that donations be given to help his grandchildren at either of the following organizations:
- Unless U – a college for kids with disabilities: Online at unlessu.org/donate or mailed to Unless U, 2017 Columbiana Road Birmingham, AL 35216
- Type One Diabetes: JDRF 2112, 11th Avenue South Suite 520, Birmingham, AL 35205