BWI Presidents on Working with Proteau

BWI Presidents who led the association during Greg Proteau’s service as Executive Director for 18 years from 2002 to 2020 offered memories of working with him as he turned over management of the group to Zuzana Prochazka at the Miami Boat Show in February. Compiled by Michael Sciulla (see more comments below), he offered an introductory phrase describing Proteau’s work as “Behind Every Leader is a Herd of Cats Yearning to be Led.” Remembrances by other BWI President’s included these:

John Wooldridge, 1985-87 (and 2012-13) – You never forget bonding with a friend. I met Greg at a Chrysler Marine press event at the Chateau Montebello resort in Canada in 1977, not long after Chris Caswell hired me to be the Inland Regional Editor of SEA Magazine. Standing on the back deck of the resort, overlooking the docks filled with Chrysler Marine boats and engines, Greg was generous to this young newbie from Chicago, where he also worked as an editor for a marine trades magazine. From that day forth, he has been mentor, confidante and lifelong friend. 

   When Greg and Bob Black approached me at the Chicago IMTEC show (Not sure of the year) about the plan to revive BWI, which had deteriorated from an active group of boating writers with a healthy newspaper outdoors writers component to a seldom-gathered coterie of drinking buddies, I said “Let’s do it.” We spread the word by phone and mail (thanks to Greg and his list) about a meeting at the winter (December or January) New York Boat Show at the old Coliseum, and had a good turnout of NY-based magazines and NE newspapers. We always had speakers from all walks of boating (APBA National Champ Betty Cook was one outstanding example) at the NYBS and MIBS events. It was a wonderful opportunity for freelancers and editors to gather over coffee and donuts/bagels, and to hear about boating sports many writers never explored. I owe both of these gentlemen more than I can say about putting me in front of a diverse group of colleagues when I was an aspiring regional boating magazine editor. I met some great writers, and some real characters. 

   I think we can all agree that our professional and personal lives have grown while he was on watch at the NMMA and at the helm of BWI. As for me, I owe him, and prize the times we have had, and will continue to have, going forward. 

Alex Zidock, 1992-93 – Eighteen years of Proteau! It seems like yesterday when I was president, and then I followed Bob Black as the ED. Joe Skorupa became president, and he and I seeded the writing contest that Greg so capably nurtured into one of the best excellence in craft yardsticks around. I recall even before he took over as the ED Greg was great to work with and was always involved. His industry insight, his gentlemanly manner, and his ability to get things done back then just smoothly transitioned into his role as BWI’s leader. Simply put, he has been right for the organization, and I enjoyed working with him. 

Jeanne Craig, 1997 I have been working in the marine industry in one capacity or another for three decades. In that time I have had the privilege to meet so many incredible people. Yet one of the most polished, professional and polite is Greg Proteau. He is one of those people who is as expert as he is generous with his time and talents. Greg, you will be missed.

Dean Travis Clarke, 1998-2000 – I worked closely with Greg throughout almost two full terms as President. I was fortunate that things ran pretty smoothly. Consequently, we were able to spend less time problem solving and more time developing an abiding friendship. One of the main things we shared was our children who rowed competitively. We even met up in Boston at the Head of the Charles Race one year. 

   Greg was the driving force of BWI. He steered our group through the day-to-day operations and the occasional rogue waves. And finally, he was also sometimes the brake that prevented us from traveling a path we shouldn’t have. Greg has been a great coxswain for BWI and I hope his future holds nothing but health and happiness for him and his family.  

Michael Verdon, 2001-02 – When Bob Black retired, I had the opportunity to become BWI Executive Director, but wanted to stay as BWI President to get my ethics rules through. Greg became ED and what good fortune for the organization that he did. Disciplined, patient and diligent, he has set a very high bar for Zuzana (which I have every confidence she’ll reach) and everyone else that follows. I feel fortunate to call Greg a friend. He’s insightful, smart, generous, unflappable and subtly sarcastic—all traits I wish I had in greater measure. He’s also served the boating writer community well during his time there and we owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Michael Sciulla, 2003-04I first met Greg sometime around 1980 when he was managing PR for NMMA and I was doing the same for BoatU.S. Relations were cool given that he represented the industry and I the consumer. That I grew up on the East coast and he the mid-West meant that we saw the world from two very different points of view. The outlook for the future was hazy at best.

   Along the way we somehow agreed to be agreeable. While I am not sure how it happened, I do know we both wanted to re-energize Boating Writers International even though it would be like herding cats. Now, some 40 years later, including about a dozen years bunking together at FLIBS and MIBS, it’s time to say au revoir mon capitan. We had a good run, did the best that we could and grew a friendship that will endure long after we set sail for our separate worlds.  

Roger Marshall, 2005-06 I think I first met Greg at the old IMTEC show in the 90s when most writers were on the staff of major magazines. At that time, the parties were raucous, the writers even more outspoken and BWI only just getting involved with the NMMA Innovation awards. Through the transition from huge press evenings (parties in other words)  Greg has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep BWI moving.

   In any organization good leadership is the glue that holds the operation together. As a former president of BWI the leadership role seemed easy until I realized that Greg Proteau was the power behind the scenes. Greg was the epoxy that enabled BWI to transition from staff editors to a gig economy. He was the tireless worker who quietly found space for meetings, helped set the agenda for those same meetings and coordinated the writing competition to the benefit of all of those of us that write about boats. His smooth, yet effacing manner enabled the real business of BWI to go on seamlessly over a long period.

Kim Kavin, 2007-09 – At times like this, when a person steps aside after years of working behind the scenes, those who worked with him often say, “So-and-so was the glue that held it all together.” Well, during my tenure as BWI president, Greg Proteau was the glue, the staples, the stitching, the screws, the bolts, the zippers, the buckles, the ties and then some.  
   Greg was a tireless manager of every last detail that needed to be handled for BWI members. His attention to those details left the elected leaders to work on big-picture items. During my tenure, the big-picture things included modernizing our newsletter, logo and website, and adapting our contest categories to the changing types of marine media. There is no way that I could have focused on getting those things done if Greg hadn’t been in the background, getting everything else done. 
   He’s also a heck of a nice guy. Those of us who have had the pleasure of working closely with Greg know that he’s always ready to pick up the phone and help, to offer advice or to just be a good friend. Greg is the kind of person we all should be blessed to be able to work with at least once in our careers. So, as he enters his next chapter, I wish Greg all the best—and I hope he knows how deeply he will be missed.

 Zuzana Prochazka, 2010-11 – “Seriously – you want the job back? I had no idea you did all this. I’ve got some big shoes to fill. Please don’t ghost me anytime soon.” 

Alan Wendt, 2014-15 – One of Greg’s largest contributions to BWI was guiding our rag-tag team of talents and bruised egos as the boating industry suffered from the Great Recession. We went from staff to freelance, watched our membership disappear as quickly as iconic boat brands. Yet he managed to fund BWI and find sponsorship for the writing contest year after year. It’s never easy being told no, yet his perseverance won the day.

   Those of us lucky enough to serve as President see how much Greg handled behind the scenes of BWI from writing, editing and publishing the monthly newsletter, to managing the membership, to coordinating the writing contest and more. Finding meeting space for board meetings, to dealing with non-payment issues for freelancers, to more serious breaches of conduct that never saw the public eye. Greg did all of this with his mild-mannered diplomatic style.  The BWI organization is stronger and better because of him and I’m confident Zuzana will lead us forward in this new decade.  

Lenny Rudow, 2016-17 – Here’s my two cents: Greg has been such a foundational part of BWI for so many year that there is much for us to be thankful for – and it’s hard to even know where to begin. But there’s one thing I have loved through the years, so let me just say this, Greg: No organizations or businesses that I have ever dealt with or ever will have provided such an intelligent, entertaining, and concise service as your yearly financial reports. Countless CEOs could learn a thing or two, from you! 

Alan Jones, 2018-19 – As executive director of BWI for nearly 20 years, Greg made the job look easy but those of us who were lucky enough to work closely with him know it was like the proverbial duck gliding gracefully on the surface while the unseen feet were furiously paddling. His political acumen and common sense approach helped navigate many complicated situations and firmly established BWI as a highly respected organization that makes us all look good by association. While I know Zuzana will do a great job in his stead, he will be a tough act to follow.