ASAE Announces Graham, Steele, Zaniello Receive Highest Individual Honors for Exceptional Leadership

June 30, 2020

WASHINGTON— ASAE will posthumously bestow John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE, past President and CEO of ASAE, with this year’s Key Award. In addition, James J. Zaniello, FASAE, President of Vetted Solutions, will be presented with the Academy of Leaders Award; and Rhea M. Steele, CAE, Chief of Staff of the School Nutrition Association, will receive the Professional Performance Award.

“On behalf of the committee, congratulations to the 2020 Individual Honors recipients. During these challenging times it is important to shine a light on the positive impact that our colleagues have made, not only in their volunteer work with ASAE, but throughout the association community,” said Christie Tarantino-Dean, FASAE, CAE, CEO, Institute of Food Technologists and chair of the 2020 Awards & Recognition Selection Committee.

John H. Graham IV is the 71st recipient of the Key Award, and the first to be posthumously honored. This award is presented to association chief staff executives who demonstrate exceptional qualities of leadership in their association and display a deep commitment to voluntary membership organizations.

Prior to his death in January, John served the association community as President and CEO of ASAE for over 16 years. Before leading the organization, he was an active ASAE volunteer and served as an ASAE board member from 1994 -1997, a member of the ASAE Research Foundation board from 2000 – 2003, as well as chair of the Foundation Development Committee (2002-2003), and chair of the Key Philanthropic Organization Committee (1996-1997). Since becoming an ASAE member in 1988, he served on several other committees including the Associations Advance America Judging Committee, Foundation Finance Committee, Partners Advisory Forum, Membership Professionals Advisory Council, and the Joint Planning Committee. John was also known for his dedication to promoting ASAE’s Power of A initiative and his unwavering support of diversity, equity and inclusion programs and legislation.

“The Awards & Recognition Committee is taking action to support John’s diversity, equity and inclusion legacy along with ASAE’s ongoing efforts by taking steps to create a more transparent and inclusive awards program,” said Matthew R. D’Uva, FASAE, CAE, CEO, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and vice-chair of the 2020 Awards & Recognition Selection Committee. “The goal of these changes is to create a pool of applicants that reflects the diverse makeup of the association community.”

James J. Zaniello is the 33rd recipient of the Academy of Leaders Award which is given to consultants or industry partners who have demonstrated exemplary support of ASAE and the entire association community. Jim served as chair of the ASAE Political Action Committee (APAC) (2001-2003), as well as chair of the Foundation Development Committee (2011-2012). He has also been active on several other committees since 1997 including the Industry Partner Alliance, Executive Management Professionals Advisory Council, CAE Commission, Healthcare Community Committee, AMC Professionals Advisory Committee, Key Consultants Committee, and Fellows Recipients. Through his professional work, Jim has collaborated with the Florida Society of Association Executives to produce a diversity and inclusion focused research study, and with the ASAE Research Foundation team to compile data for a study that will examine the use of Interim CEOs and Executive Directors.

Rhea M. Steele is the 46th recipient of ASAE’s Professional Performance Award. It recognizes invaluable contributions made by association executives who are at the top level in their organizations but are not CEOs. Rhea has been an active volunteer since 2011. She served as vice-chair (2014-2015), and chair (2015-2016) of the National Capital Area Advisory Council and has been a member of the Gold Circle Awards Committee, the Technology Professionals Advisory Council, and was recently appointed to the CAE Commission. In addition to her committee work, Rhea helps to advance the association profession by leading prospective CAE candidates through the ASAE CAE Exam Kickoff Course and is a co-founder of the Association Women Technology Champions group.

The awards will be presented during the 2020 ASAE Virtual Annual Meeting & Exposition, August 10-12. To learn more about ASAE’s Individual Honors criteria and selection process, visit the ASAE Individual Honors website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lauren Precker, CAE,, 202-626-2735.

About ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership
ASAE is celebrating 100 years of making society smarter, better and safer. The Centennial anniversary represents ASAE’s role as a leader and supporter of progress and innovation in the association industry. ASAE is a membership organization of more than 48,000 association executives and industry partners representing 7,400 organizations. Since it was established 100 years ago, its members have and continue to lead, manage, and work in or partner with organizations in more than a dozen association management disciplines, from executive management to finance to technology. With the support of the ASAE Research Foundation, a separate nonprofit entity, ASAE is the premier source of learning, knowledge, and future-oriented research for the association and nonprofit profession and provides resources, education, ideas, and advocacy to enhance the power and performance of the association and nonprofit community. Visit ASAE at