Chapter Resources

Florida GCSA unveils the Marie Roberts Lifetime Service Award

It all began in 1984 when Florida GCSA (FGCSA) President Tom Burrows called on his neighbor, Marie Roberts. Burrows asked Roberts if she would do him a favor and type a letter needed for his association. He knew she had a background as an administrative assistant and likely could type. One letter led to another, and then there were some board meeting minutes to be done. When the FGCSA decided it needed to do a newsletter and a membership directory, somebody said, “Who the heck is going to do all this?” Tom suggested the FGCSA hire Roberts permanently and the rest is history.

Lifetime service award in the making

A year ago, then FGCSA President Greg Pheneger had an idea that the FGCSA might want to consider creating a way to show appreciation to deserving individuals, who were not superintendents, but had served and supported the FGCSA over the years. The executive council agreed and it didn’t take long to nominate the first recipient, Marie Roberts, association manager. In fact, the group decided to call it the Marie Roberts Lifetime Service Award.

The surprise award ceremony

On May 12, 2005, President Joe Pantaleo stood up at the 2005 Past Presidents Dinner at Zoe’s Restaurant in Naples and asked the group for its attention. Everyone assumed it was time to honor the past presidents with a congratulatory toast for their past and current leadership in the industry and the association.

Pantaleo announced that, as of this night, the FGCSA was going to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to individuals who were not superintendents, but who have had a meaningful and long lasting effect on the association and industry. Pantaleo turned the floor over to Tim Hiers, CGCS, FGCSA’s first president to make the presentation. It wasn’t until Hiers was well into his speech that Roberts began to catch on, when unavoidable clues were spoken.

Roberts accepted the award graciously, as those who know her would expect, thanked the board and the past presidents and recounted how these were “all my boys” through the years. Roberts’ first reaction after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award was to wonder, how did they find out where I got all those plaques for them? Several of the past presidents gave short anecdotes about how Roberts was their right hand when they had the gavel and how she kept the FGCSA moving forward by taking care of the administrative details while we did all the talking.

Recognizing Marie’s family

In addition to “Marie’s boys,” as she calls us, Roberts has a family of her own. Oldest daughter Colleen is a former registered nurse and is a full-time mom to her three children: Shannon (15), Taylor (12) and Michael (4). They live just a little way down the street from Roberts. Son Mark is a pediatric respiratory therapist and recently moved back to Stuart from Colorado. Mark is a master wake boarder and mountain bike aficionado. Marie’s youngest daughter, Suzanne , lives in Ft. Myers with her husband and two children, Jackson (6) and Hayden (5 months). Suzanne is a clinical pharmacist.

Roberts has an even larger family that she tries to keep tabs on, with more than 1,100 members to serve. Membership renewal and directory time get pretty hectic. Roberts really appreciates those chapter volunteers who get information and reports to her on time. She knows it can be tough when you have a full-time job as a golf course superintendent.

Marie’s lifetime achievements

Roberts said, “This is a great job. I could never have imagined the scope and changes that have occurred over 21 years. This includes meeting all the people, traveling to conference and show, and now attending GCSAA chapter executives meetings and comparing notes with my peers who do similar work from New York to California. It’s been a great experience. It’s not an 8 to 5 type of job, although I have to admit during those first five years, I would get phone calls from superintendents who just naturally assumed that since they were in their offices at 5:00 a.m., so was I. Thankfully, they got over that. My days can be flexible and that’s a nice aspect to this job. I can play tennis with my girl friends in the morning and then work the rest of the day as needed. It really has been a fun job.”

Roberts observed how association life has changed across the state and nation. She said, “I am amazed at the chapters locally and nationally that still expect or think a full-time superintendent will be willing to do his full-time job all day and then come home and conduct chapter business into the night, or that he or she even has the time to do it. While a lot of chapters have wives of superintendents acting as administrative assistants or even chapter executives, some chapters have hired professional association executives to help the various boards of directors to achieve their goals. One of these days, Joel and I will be retiring. I wonder what route the FGCSA will take.”

As a former president of the FGCSA, and now as a staff member of the association, there is no way we would be where we are without the continuity, experience, dedication and determination that Roberts has put into her job over the past two decades. All of us owe her a debt of thanks, and we tried to repay that debt by establishing the Marie Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in her honor. Thank you, Marie.

Submitted by Joel Jackson, CGCS – Florida GCSA communications director

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