Breaking News: AAA picks an experienced association leader for the precarious post of executive director

By David H. Kirkwood

 RESTON, VA–The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) has selected a new executive director, Tanya Tolpegin, to take over the leadership of its professional staff effective October 6. Tolpegin, whose appointment was announced to the academy membership on September 2 three days after being reported here, will succeed Cheryl Kreider Carey, who was dismissed as executive director last December, the third person to lose that job in the past 15 years.

Tanya Tolpegin
Tanya Tolpegin

The incoming director has extensive experience in the management of non-profit associations, including the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography, where she has been executive director for the past six years, and the Professional Landcare Network, where she was CEO from 2004 to 2008. She also has worked as an executive in the for-profit sector, including as vice-president and chief marketing officer of USA Floral Products, Inc., and as vice-president for strategic planning at Medeco.

She earned a BS in systems engineering from the University of Virginia in 1990, and later was awarded an MBA from that university’s Darden School of Business.




In an August 29 e-mail, which this blog obtained, Erin L. Miller, AuD, president of the academy, notified a number of present and former AAA leaders that, following an eight-month search, the academy had found in Tolpegin “a capable, optimistic, and energetic leader with the necessary experience and proven record of success in association management to lead academy operations.”

Miller added, “The board is confident that Ms. Tolpegin’s experience will help make our academy a stronger and more effective association and her financial and management experience will help establish a sustainable business model for the association.”

The quest for a new director was conducted by a committee appointed in January 2014 to “identify exceptional candidates” for the open position.

The search committee members were Angela Shoup, PhD, representing the academy’s members-at-large; Gail Whitelaw, PhD, representing past presidents/leadership; Melissa Sinden, former senior director of government relations, and Amy Miedema, senior director of communications, representing the academy staff; Tony Joseph, PhD, AuD, representing the board of directors; and past president Deb Carlson, PhD; immediate past president Bettie Borton, AuD; and Miller, the current president.

After considering nearly 150 applicants, the committee identified 30 “highly qualified candidates.” Of these, the top eight were interviewed. They were winnowed down to four, who each received a second interview, and then to two candidates, whose final interviews led to the selection of Tolpegin.

Miller noted that Tolpegin, a Certified Association Executive, is active in the American Society of Association Executives and the American Association of Society Executives.



Tanya Tolpegin will take over the leadership of AAA’s staff in challenging circumstances. Over the past 15 years, her three predecessors–Carol Fraser Fisk, Laura Fleming Doyle, and Cheryl Kreider Carey—have all been let go for reasons that the board of the academy did not disclose.

As reported on this blog last December, Carey’s departure came after a number of prominent veteran members of the academy expressed their feelings that the organization had gone off course.

Following a June 2013 meeting in Atlanta on the state of audiology, a group of “concerned audiologists,” including several past presidents, past board members, and founders of the academy, sent an 11-page letter to Bettie Borton, then-president of AAA. In it they said, “We are concerned as to whether the American Academy of Audiology is sufficiently focused to achieve the realization of autonomy, to remain relevant in healthcare, and to assure quality care for persons with hearing loss in this country.”

The writers said they saw a lack of the effective national leadership needed “to address the multitude of internal and external forces impacting audiology,” and they pointed to “a loss of sense of the mission of the academy that has occurred under the current management.” The writers concluded that this was “an appropriate time for the academy to seek a new executive director.”

Time will tell if the academy’s new executive director is the leader that the critics say is needed to turn AAA’s attention back to its core mission.