ACCE - American Chamber of commerce executives

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 Board Service
  • 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

  • CEOs
    1. All retired CEOs with 12 or more years of service, who have been out of the profession for at least one year, may be nominated for Life Member consideration, regardless of current employment status. If less than 12 years as CEO, candidate must have been out of the chamber (or related) profession for at least 18 months prior to nomination.
    2. A currently serving CEO of a chamber or chamber-like organization may be nominated for Life Membership if he/she has served 12 or more years as CEO.  Those nominated for life membership while still serving as CEO of a chamber must be approved by the selection committee two consecutive years. 
  • Non-CEOs
    1. Staff members of chambers may be eligible for Life Member nomination following full retirement from the profession after at least 20 years of service.

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

Nomination Process:

  • A nomination form and/or a nomination letter that includes appropriate information about the nominee must be submitted prior to the published deadline.  In addition to the 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.


2013 Life Members Announced!

Joseph W. Dalton Jr., CCE

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Joe Dalton began his chamber career as a staffer in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1967. In 1969, Joe went for a “practice interview” at what was then known as the Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Chamber. Turns out he interviewed well, and in 1970 became the chamber’s CEO, with a staff of one full-time and one part-time employee, a total membership of 330, and a budget of $33,000. When Joe retired in 2010 after serving the chamber for 40 years, he left with a staff of 10 full-time employees and a membership of 2,700.

Upon his arrival, Saratoga Springs was struggling. Facing many challenges, “Joe knew early what would be his calling card.” In an article published in The Saratogian newspaper upon his retirement, Joe reflected on those early years: “’In the 1960s, business leaders decided to re-invent the city, and I strongly supported that philosophy of leadership and growth not reliant on the revenues generated from the August racetrack,’ Dalton said. ‘I involved myself in that urban renewal. The volunteer leaders took a lot of static, but they kept going. Naysayers can drive you crazy in this business.’”

Joe engaged business and civic leaders in addressing community challenges, and together they developed not only a community vision, but action steps to accomplish their lofty goals. The chamber dealt with social issues such as street crime, and led downtown redevelopment, creating 17,000 jobs through the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (which he helped to establish). He co-founded the convention bureau, and coordinated advocacy campaigns. Under his leadership the chamber evolved into a county-wide organization and one of the largest chambers in New York.

One of the most touching initiatives Joe led was a plan to recognize the work of firefighters and first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Saratogian said. Rallying volunteers to the cause, Joe organized – in only four days— respite for 200 first responders who were brought to Saratoga Springs for an all-expenses paid weekend with their families.

Joe served on the ACCE Board of Directors, was president of the New York Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (which also honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award), and taught U.S. Chamber Institute classes for many years. He is currently chair of the Saratoga Springs City Center; director of “Saratoga 150,” celebrating 150 years of Thoroughbred racing; and serves on the boards of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation and the 1200-acre tech park, Luther Forest Campus.

Charles Van Rysselberge, CCE, IOM

Having served 40 years in the chamber profession, Charles H. Van Rysselberge is truly a career chamber executive. As a student at the University of Georgia, he worked part-time for chambers in Athens, Ga., Columbia and Greenville, S.C. His master’s thesis was on chamber communication programs in metropolitan U.S. cities. Following military service, Charles’ first full-time chamber job was as marketing director for the Shreveport, La., chamber, and went on to serve the Chattanooga, Tenn., and Monroe, La., chambers. Other career stops included:

  • 2002-2011: President & CEO, Charleston Metro (S.C.) Chamber of Commerce
  • 2001-2002: Consultant, Fremont Development Group, Atlanta, Ga.
  • 1993-2001: President & CEO, Greater Oklahoma City (OK) Chamber of Commerce
  • 1988-1993: Executive Vice President, Metro Atlanta (GA) Chamber of Commerce
  • 1986-1988: President & CEO, Shreveport (LA) Chamber of Commerce
  • 1981-1986: President & CEO, Dalton (GA) Chamber of Commerce

His accomplishments in Oklahoma City and Charleston are particularly noteworthy. In Oklahoma City, he transformed the chamber into a political and economic development powerhouse by raising more than $25 million in special funds for economic development and to underwrite public ballot initiatives which led to a multi-billion dollar renaissance of downtown OKC. As the chamber grew from 2,300 members to more than 4,000, staff increased and diversified programs were installed. As a result, the chamber was recognized by NAMD as a finalist for “Chamber of the Year,” and earned the Commitment award from the Oklahoma Quality Award Foundation. Charles was named “Man of the Year” by a local newspaper.

In 2002, he arrived in Charleston to manage a chamber that was over a million dollars in debt. In a few years the debt was wiped out and by the time of his retirement boasted a $1 million surplus. The chamber has twice been awarded Five Star Accreditation by the U.S. Chamber and was an ACCE Chamber of the Year finalist.

Charles has served on the ACCE Board of Directors and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship, and had leadership roles in several state associations. He served two terms on the Board of Regents of the U.S. Chamber Institute and has joined the faculty for 2013. Since his retirement in 2011, Charles has been president of CVR Consulting, LLC, where he consults on community collaboration, revenue generation and business/association services. Holding dual citizenship (American and Belgian), he is a South Carolina Consular Corps member and serves as the foreign trade advisor for Belgium.

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