USAE is a meetings and hospitality publication, founded in 1982, that has become an institution and guidepost for our industry. It is a widely read publication that is well-known for being the first to share industry news, both good and bad.
USAE’s co-founder, Anne Heller, passed away on September 12 after an extended illness. Despite her health challenges, she remained a major influencer in our industry. Her devoted husband, Ross, was always nearby in his role as companion and as the Publisher – and he completely deferred to Anne as the Executive Editor.
It is not difficult to come across someone in our industry with a unique and memorable story involving Anne. It could be related to a story in her publication or a personal encounter involving her expansive philanthropy and genuine empathy. She and her USAE team were prolific in forming partnerships and alliances that helped our industry grow.
My first encounter with Anne took place in the early 1990’s as I was vying for my first appointment to a destination marketing association (DMO) CEO position at Visit Oakland. I had taken great pains to exercise discretion and confidentiality in the interview and selection process.\
After a series of meetings with the selection committee, I returned to my hotel room to share how I thought things went with my wife. As we chatted, the phone rang in the hotel room. We were startled and wondered who would be calling us. My wife answered, and it was Anne Heller. In the confusion of the moment, my wife thought Anne said she was from USA Today, as opposed to USAE. (It turns out that the two publications began at nearly the same time.)
I was reluctant to say much to Anne since I had not yet had a chance to confer with my then-current employer. Ultimately, Anne and I agreed that I would provide an exclusive story once the details of my employment in Oakland were finalized, and I had let all the appropriate people know. Over the years, I have had numerous encounters with Anne, some tougher than others. However, she was always gracious and kind when we were able to speak.
It may be hard to measure in the present moment, but Anne and her team have clearly transformed the way in which the meetings and hospitality industry is presented and understood. We will miss her but will continue to benefit from her staunch journalistic dedication to our industry.