Charles “Chuck” Rumbarger, 75, one of the most beloved and respected beacons in the association community, has died.
The news shocked and saddened the association community when word spread this past weekend that Chuck had died on Jan. 13, 2016, of congestive heart failure at his home in Rockville, Md. Many in the association community shared their fond and grateful memories of Chuck, including Bruce Wardle, to whom Chuck sold AMG, an association management company in McLean, Va., back in 1999.
“Chuck was my mentor, teacher, example and thought leader for more than 20 years,” Wardle said. “He led Association Management Group by example, never expecting us to do anything he would not embrace or do himself. His relationships with AMG clients and with employees were exceptional.
“Chuck’s contribution to the association management profession was extensive and not fully recognized. His deep commitment to industry best practice and ethical operations led to the creation of the AMC accreditation process, first through ASAE under CEO Mike Olson, and now the current accreditation process through the AMC Institute. Chuck’s receipt of ASAE’s Key Award meant a great deal to him, as did the many other ways he was recognized by the industry and profession he loved so much.
“The 1999 transfer of AMG’s ownership from Chuck to me could not have gone more smoothly and professionally. I was proud to have Chuck stay on at AMG for more than five years after he sold it to me, while I observed his continuing contributions to our clients.
“I knew Chuck to also be a consummate outdoorsman and loving husband and father. He would often say to me that Phyllis was the very best thing to happen to him. Chuck’s legacy lives on at AMG. He will forever be in my memory as a great example of a leader and his written work, counsel and advice will always be there to aspire to.”
Steven John Fellman, Esq., a partner at GKG Law and a contributor to Association TRENDS, said: “Chuck Rumbarger was the epitome of a truly ‘good person.’ He served many roles as a leader of the association community. He was a dedicated, loyal and innovative association executive.
“He and his wife Phyllis not only raised two children of their own but also served as foster parents and mentors for a series of disadvantaged kids. Chuck provided hands on assistance to "Wounded Warriors,” inviting them to spend weekends at his farm in Pennsylvania. Chuck truly cared about people.
“Chuck and I worked closely together for more than 30 years. I will never forget when I was sitting in my office the day before I was scheduled to go into the hospital for major cancer surgery. I looked up to see Chuck walking through the door. I asked him why he was there and he replied that he came to give me a hug. I will miss that wonderful guy.”
Chuck was also chairman at the former Greater Washington Society of Association Executives. Former GWSAE CEO Susan Sarfati, now CEO of High Performance Strategies, said, "Chuck Rumbarger will always be a legend in the association management profession. He was dedicated to advancing the body of knowledge and the positive impact of associations on our society. Chuck was very generous in sharing his expertise and wisdom with candor, openness and a sense of humor. He will be missed and not forgotten." Joel Sarfati simply said, “A great loss.”
Comments left on the TRENDS Facebook pages:
Gary LaBranche, CAE, CEO, Association of Corporate Growth and a past TRENDS Association Executive of the Year: “Chuck Rumbarger was a true gentleman, thought leader and friend. A mentor to many and a role model to all, Chuck exemplified professionalism. RIP.”
Jeffry W. Raynes, CAE, association executive and former ASAE chairman: “‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ The enterprise of mankind as embodied in our advance of knowledge is built on this pattern and this premise. Human knowledge and understanding is a very cumulative affair. As a young professional many years ago, I, along with so many others, had that privilege with Chuck Rumbarger, and I am forever grateful for it.”
Annette Petrick, writer and presenter at Consider This Radio Show, and an association consultant: “Chuck was my mentor, my idol and later, much to my delight, my collaborator. He never took the easy way out. A true outstanding individual who gave unselfishly and shared his wisdom and knowledge generously. Thank you, Chuck. You have left behind memories of integrity, courage and joy.
“Chuck appeared as a key note speaker at the first membership conference I planned, about a 100 years ago. He was so intrigued by our approach that he stayed for three days. Thus began a professional relationship and friendship, treasured over the years.
“After leaving the profession officially, he continued to mentor, restore and offer sanctuary to those who had become disillusioned, while also providing guidance to those on the first rungs of the ladder. His heart and soul were huge and generous and joyous.
“Stumbling upon this giant of a man with the gentle heart was a gift for which I shall always be grateful. Goodbye, dear friend.”
Charles Robinson of Tradeshow Logistics: “A lovely kind hearted soul. RIP Chuck.”
Elissa Myers, executive director at Academy for Eating Disorders, and at PAICR, and president at Advice & Consensus: “I have to say Chuck and I were often on opposite ends of an argument but I don't know that I ever enjoyed arguing with anyone as much as I enjoyed arguing with him. So sad to know that he's gone. What a great teacher, friend, Leader, and…association executive.”
Joanne Dunne: “Chuck was one of those people who seemed to connect and share without a thought. The first time I met him he encouraged me to go after my goal to be an executive director. After that, he always remembered and would ask me how it was going every time we ran into each other. He encouraged me just by asking.”
Chip Deale, membership VP, Financial Executives International: “Chuck truly was one of the great gentlemen of this profession. A kind, considerate, thoughtful individual. I looked up to him so much from the start of my career. I mourn his passing and my thoughts are with his wonderful wife Phyllis.”
John Pannullo, retired association executive: “A great association community leader - he will be missed.”
Debbie Nevins, formerly of NRI Inc.: ”Greatly admired him! One of a kind - honest, straightforward, kind and a pro.”
Tom Gorski: “He was a man worthy of praise. He often helped young, aspiring association execs find their niche. He made his mark on the association world and will be missed.”
David W. Giger, sales and industry relations senior director, Hilton Hotels, and a past TRENDS Association Partner of the Year: “Blessed that I got to know him so well – many years of corroborating on work, industry and social time, even playing tennis together once, and once being his guest for hunting at his great Pennsylvania retreat. THIS was truly and industry GIANT. May he rest in peace.”
To read Chuck’s obituary at the Pumphrey Funeral Home site, click here.
Chuck is survived by Phyllis, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 53 years; his two children and a brother, and their respective spouses.
A service celebrating Chuck's life will be at 2 p.m. Jan. 30 at Bethesda United Church of Christ, 10010 Fernwood Road, Bethesda, Md., followed by a reception in the church parlor. Later the family will host a picnic at Berry Hill, his retreat in Pennsylvania. All are welcome. Details to come.