Life Member Awards

Historically called “Honorary Member,” this pinnacle award is bestowed by ACCE on those who retire after stellar careers in chamber leadership. The present “Life Member” name recognizes both the lifetime of success in the chamber profession as well as the member-for-life status granted to each honoree.

Life Member designees are honored during the ACCE annual convention's awards ceremony.

Criteria for Consideration: 

1.  Successful Chamber

    • Shown measurable success in building their communities and organizations

2.  Mentorship

    • Willingly mentored their own staff members and others who sought guidance to grow in the profession

3.  Prominent Role in Leading/Advancing the Profession

    • Made a significant contribution to the profession:  ACCE participation and leadership, U.S. Chamber institutes and programs, State Regional Association Officer, etc.

Factors Influencing Selection:

  • CCE
  • 5-Star Accreditation
  • Chairmanship of state/regional chamber execs’ association
  • ACCE Involvement
  • IOM Board of Governors Service
  • “Seconding” or supporting letters/testimony/recommendations

Requirements & Eligiblity:

The Candidate’s chamber (current employer or chamber to which a retired candidate is most closely affiliated), must be a member in Good Standing of ACCE

  • All CEOs retired, or retiring, from the chamber profession with 12 or more years of service may be nominated for Life Member consideration, regardless of current employment status. If less than 12 years as CEO in the chamber profession, candidates must have been out of the chamber (or related) profession for at least 18 months prior to nomination.
  • Non-CEO members of chambers may be eligible for Life Member nomination following full retirement from the profession after at least 12 years of service.

NOTE:  No more than two currently serving CEOs may receive Life Member designation in the same year.

Nomination Process:

  • A nomination letter that includes appropriate information about the nominee must be addressed to the ACCE Life Member Committee c/o ACCE, 1330 Braddock Place, Ste 300, Alexandria, VA 22314 or emailed to by February 1, 2019. In addition to evidence of excellence in regards to the criteria, the nomination must include current contact information for the person being nominated.
  • Late submissions, as well as those nominated in a prior award cycle, will be re-submitted for consideration in the subsequent year(s).  Re-nomination is not required. 
  • Notice of acceptance (winning), rejection (unlikely to receive Life Member status at any time), and tabling (under consideration in the future) will not be provided to nominators prior to the announcement of Life Member awards. For this reason, it is recommended that nominators do not alert candidates at the time of nomination.
  • Life Member designees and the primary nominating party will be notified at least six weeks prior to the date of the awards ceremony.


2018 Life Members 

ACCE honored the work of these individuals and their enduring influence and lifetime of service to the chamber profession during #ACCE18 in Des Moines. 

HearnDanny Hearn, CCE, IOM

Over the course of his 44-year chamber career, Danny has worked in four different communities to serve his members’ needs, grow local economies and create jobs for thousands of North Carolina and Virginia residents. He recently retired after serving 12 years as president of the 2016 Chamber of the Year-winning Catawba County Chamber of Commerce in Hickory, N.C. He previously led chambers in Rockingham and Statesville, N.C. 

Danny served with a passion for talent recruitment and retention, small business and entrepreneurship. Innovative programs he developed – the Edison Project for entrepreneurs, the workforce connectivity publication “Made” and the industry-driven Manufacturing and Furniture Academies training courses – are examples of the high priority he has placed on economic expansion and growth.

The impact of Danny’s personal involvement with his community and region was recognized in 2016 when he received the highest honor bestowed by North Carolina governors – The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. The award is bestowed on persons who have made significant contributions to the state of North Carolina and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

Danny’s commitment to improving the lives of those he served was demonstrated in his leadership in establishing North Carolina’s first Crime Stoppers program in Statesville in 1982, and the third in the country. The effort was recognized with a commendation from Governor James Hunt. Danny’s founding of Champions of Education in 2006, a nonprofit organization providing education advocacy, family involvement, business partnerships and innovation in support of K-12 education in Catawba County is another example of Danny prioritizing the needs of others.

Thanks to the influence of his father and younger brother, both of whom were chamber professionals, Danny’s commitment to his profession began immediately upon being hired by the Hickory Chamber of Commerce (N.C.) in 1973. Just three weeks after his college graduation, he enrolled in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Institute for Organization Management. In the ensuing 38 years, he has served on its faculty for nearly 30 years and as chairman of the Southeast Institute’s Board of Regents. As a member of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Institute Board of Trustees, he served as national chairman in 2011-12.

His national impact includes service as a member of the ACCE Board of Directors and as a past member of the U.S. Chamber’s Committee of 100. He has twice been named North Carolina Chamber Executive of the Year and served as president of the Carolinas Chamber Executives Association. In 2014, the Catawba County Chamber was named “Most Outstanding Chamber of the Year” by the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

His long-time service to the U.S. Chamber’s Institute program provided a platform for his well-earned reputation as a mentor to emerging chamber professionals attending the Southeast program at the University of Georgia. In addition, he is a sought-after facilitator across the nation for chamber board retreats, membership campaigns and staff training events, as well as a keynote speaker for chamber annual meetings.


Gary Toebben, CCE, IOMToebben

Gary Toebben has been the president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce since 2006 and his career in the chamber profession spans 43 years. 

Under his leadership, the LA Chamber played a statewide leadership role in co-sponsoring two successful state ballot initiatives on Legislative Redistricting (2008) and Term Limits Reform (2012) and was a major proponent of the Top-Two Primary ballot proposition.

In 2016 and 2017, Gary and the LA Chamber championed four successful ballot measures in the city and county of Los Angeles that resulted in $140 billion for transportation projects, $3.4 billion for community college physical improvements, $1.2 billion for housing for the homeless and $350 million per year for ten years for housing and support services for the homeless. The chamber also led the campaign to defeat Measure S which would have forced a two-year construction moratorium in the City of Los Angeles.

Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Gary served as president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce for seven years. Toebben began his chamber career in 1975 at the chamber of commerce in North Platte, Nebraska, and later served as president of the chamber of commerce in Lawrence, Kansas for 18 years.

Gary served as chairman of the board of directors of ACCE in 2003. He is a past chair of Mobility 21, a seven-county coalition for transportation funding in Southern California and has served on blue ribbon committees for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the California Endowment, the Metropolitan Water District and Los Angeles Unified School District.  He is co-founder of the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, a joint effort between the LA Chamber and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.  

Gary is a native of Nebraska and holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He and his wife Janice have four children and nine grandchildren.


VirgiliMarianne Virgili, CCE, IOM

Marianne Virgili is the former president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association in Colorado. After serving the organization for 32 years, she retired in 2017.

Marianne began her chamber career at the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce in 1985 as the special events director. Less than two years later, she was promoted to executive director. In 1989, when the city and community tourism functions merged with the chamber, the new organization was named the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, and Marianne was appointed its first president and CEO.

Under Marianne’s three decades of leadership, Glenwood Springs was established as a top Colorado tourism destination. Her ability to cultivate partnerships, specifically between the business community and tourism industry, brought together coalitions of people with diverse concerns and agendas for the betterment of Glenwood Springs.

Marianne and the chamber are credited for providing the expertise and being the driving force to pass ballot measures for many of Glenwood Springs’ amenities. For more than three decades the chamber’s Community on the Move Committee initiated, campaigned for and passed every major city, civic and tax initiative. Marianne also ran several successful local election campaigns which built a community center, bike trails, public buildings, schools, transportation infrastructure and the leading rural mass transit system in the nation.

During her tenure, both she and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association earned numerous accolades, including a Daily Points of Light Award from President Bill Clinton and in 2013, ACCE’s prestigious Chamber of the Year award. The organization also garnered more than two dozen national awards of excellence for print and electronic publications, including the Gold Prize from North American Travel Journalists Association for the 2015 Official Guide to Glenwood Springs.

Marianne has been in active in state and national organizations. She served as president of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce Executives and served on the boards of ACCE and the Western Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. In 2009, Marianne was selected to be a Ford Foundation Fellow for Sustainable Regional Development. She was national chair of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management a member of the U.S. Chamber’s prestigious Committee of 100.  After Marianne formed the Glenwood Springs Film Commission, she was appointed by Colorado’s governor to the boards of the Colorado Film Commission and Colorado Creative Industries.

Marianne continues to be a frequent writer, facilitator and presenter in the association and chamber of commerce industries.

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