Association Forum Announces Recipients of its 2023 Awards 

Award recipients will be honored at Association Forum’s Honors Gala 2023.

By Association Forum

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CHICAGO (April 27, 2023) — Association Forum is proud to announce the five honorees for the organization’s most prestigious awards, who will be recognized at Association Forum’s Honors Gala 2023

“Congratulations to the 2023 Honors Award recipients,” says Association Forum President and CEO Artesha Moore, FASAE, CAE. “This is a tightknit community of professionals and the achievements displayed by these leaders are nothing short of remarkable. I am inspired by each of them and their dedication to our industry,” she said. 

The Awards & Recognition Committee reviewed applications and recommended candidates who were approved by Association Forum’s Board of Directors. Echoing Moore’s sentiments, Board Chair Gregory Heidrich, CEO, Society of Actuaries, said: “It is a privilege to honor these individuals for their achievements. Taking an organization to the next level requires exceptional leadership and relentless vision, which is where these individuals excel.” 

The association community will gather on June 22, 2023 at Morgan Manufacturing in Chicago for Association Forum’s Honors Gala to celebrate these leaders. This year’s event will feature the traditional dinner and dancing, with some twists. Between a chic new venue and an updated dress code, the Gala (code name Sneaker Ball) will highlight the best of the association industry. Ticket sales support the Association Forum Foundation, which enhances programs and services through new education, research, and scholarship initiatives.  

Join us in applauding this year’s Honorees: 

Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement 

Association Forum is proud to bestow its highest honor, the Samuel B. Shapiro Award for Chief Staff Executive Achievement, to Stephanie Mercado, CAE, CPHQ, Executive Director/CEO, National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ). Mercado has served in her role since 2014 and shown a clear commitment to making healthcare better. She is invested in the issues of workforce readiness for quality and safety and, under her leadership, NAHQ is making gains in creating structural standardization for the quality workforce across the healthcare industry. 

John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award for Association Professionals 

The John C. Thiel Distinguished Service Award is presented for outstanding service to  Association Forum by an association professional member. This year’s recipient is Josie Hernandez, IOM, Executive Director, Bostrom. Hernandez co-chairs Association Forum’s Latinx Advisory Group and serves on the Welcoming Environment Committee. She is also president of the nonprofit Association Latinos and brings these experiences and voices to the work she does with Association Forum.  

Association Professional Achievement Award 

The Association Professional Achievement Award is presented to an association professional member (not a Chief Executive Officer) for exemplary service and outstanding accomplishments in association management. This award reflects a high level of commitment to professional growth and personal pride in the association management industry. This year’s recipient is Zack Wahlquist, MS, CAE, Chief Operating Officer, Chicago Association of REALTORS®. Wahlquist has worked in association management for two decades and has been an active volunteer during that time. He is a member of the Welcoming Environment Committee and serves as co-chair of the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group. He holds his CAE and mentors those seeking the designation. 

Inspiring Leader Award 

The Inspiring Leader Award is presented to an individual who has established a culture that fosters employee satisfaction, motivation, engagement, and achievement. This year’s recipient is Gabriela Welch, MPA, CAE, ICE-CCP, Vice President of Certifications and Standards, Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). Welch is an active member of the association industry and seeks out new volunteer opportunities for herself and her team. She developed a comprehensive training program for her team that is being adopted by ASCM’s HR team to develop and organization-wide training. She created a program to discover her staff’s career goals and help them focus on a path that will get them there either within or outside of the organization. She also implemented a work-to-home orientation in 2020 when her office went remote. This program helped her team transition and successfully meet all budget metrics at 100% or more. 

Welcoming Environment Organizational Award 

The Welcoming Environment Organizational Award is given to an association that has demonstrated exemplary outcomes in providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and culture. This year’s winner is the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). In 2020, ASA hired an outside consultant to assess and help improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the organization. Since that time, ASA has created a task force, a strategic action plan, and a phased priority approach to DEI. ASA has held seminars on implicit bias and anti-racism, inclusion and supporting transgender and nonbinary colleagues. ASA has woven DEI into every aspect of the organization, including revamping policies, changing recruiting efforts, updating communications, and more. 

On behalf of Association Forum’s Board of Directors, Awards & Recognition Committee, and staff, congratulations to this year’s recipients. Click here to purchase your tickets for Honors Gala 2023


About Association Forum  
The mission of Association Forum is to advance the professional practice of association management. Founded in 1916, Association Forum serves 4,000 association professionals whose efforts serve more than 37 million members and generate $22 billion in global annual expenditures. Visit for more information. 




Association Forum

The mission of Association Forum is to advance the professional practice of association management. Founded in 1916, Association Forum serves 4,000 association professionals whose efforts serve more than 27 million members and generate $10 billion in global annual expenditures. Visit for more information.

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