It is with great sadness that the ICA leadership announce that Michael L. Haley, who served as Executive Director of ICA from 2000 until his retirement in 2016, passed away from complications after an extended battle with cancer on 2 January, 2020 at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where he had recently relocated with his husband, Edward. Michael was 70. We consider ourselves extremely lucky, proud, and grateful to have worked with him. On behalf of ICA’s Board of Directors, staff, and members, we extend our deepest sympathies to Edward and their family.
Michael came to ICA in 2000, after an extensive search for a new Executive Director. He was hired shortly after the Association’s 50th Annual Conference in Acapulco, Mexico, with two major objectives given to him by the Executive Committee: move the headquarters to a major metropolitan area (from its then home in Austin, Texas), and focus on making the organization more international in both composition and scope.
With gusto Michael accomplished the first objective within his first year as Executive Director, moving ICA’s office in Austin to Washington, D.C. in late 2001. In 2006 he entrenched the association’s location in the U.S. capitol by shepherding the purchase of the current office on 21st Street NW, which ICA has called its home for the last 15 years.
In pursuing the second objective, Michael saw ICA’s enormous global potential as a learned society, and he channeled efforts in that direction that still echo today. The establishment of regional conferences, international liaisons, and board members-at-large all evolved under Michael’s leadership. He personally spearheaded getting ICA accepted as a UN-designated NGO. From 1964-2000 the Annual Conference was held just three times outside of North America; in Michael’s 16 years as Executive Director he closed deals that put the Annual Conference outside of North America six times. These efforts form the essential foundation that Michael laid out as the architect of ICA’s future.
However, all of this is academic. What Michael brought to ICA went far beyond any policy or quantitative accomplishment. He lent the association a vision of diplomacy and kindness. He saw ICA’s members and leaders as true gifts to the community and treated them as such. A site visit, conference planning, a mid-year meeting: these weren’t just thankless obligations for board members, but celebrations of the volunteers, their time, and the impact that both would have on ICA’s mission.
Michael was a firm believer in ICA’s culture of informality and parity. Himself a PhD, Michael nonetheless took pride in being relatable. He addressed ICA’s most distinguished scholars and its youngest graduate students on equal terms, asking that they do the same.
Michael didn’t just apply this nature to the members. His patience and kindness guided ICA’s staff through many iterations. As personnel came and went, what stayed static were the relationships he fostered with them: a leader to be looked up to, even a father figure to some. Michael never shied away from this role, even (perhaps especially) in the hardest times. He made sure everyone was heard and that each person with whom he interacted--from staff to student members to the president--were treated with equal respect. He was deeply involved , as well, in the selection of his successor to the Executive Director role, insisting on someone who shared his sense of humor, and including a generous six months of overlap in which he effected something of a “Vulcan mind meld” to pass along his sixteen years of ICA-specific institutional wisdom, ensuring that ICA would be left in the care of someone who would take the same care he had taken in ensuring its success, and in creating an association to which members and staff alike truly enjoyed belonging.
His diligence and devotion were offset by a notorious unflappable demeanor. As is the case with all the best Executive Directors, Michael kept a calm, steady hand even in moments of chaos and crisis; ICA leaders, members, and staff relied on him in equal measure to navigate troubled waters with an absolute minimum of turbulence. In addition, Michael was equipped with a dry wit and quirky sense of humor: both a chuckle and a quick, gentle rejoinder were always at the ready. His characteristic smirk is what many of us will remember most.
Born November 6, 1949, Michael grew up in Colorado and surrounding areas in the northwestern United States. He was a proud graduate of U of Oregon (and rabid fan of the american football team the Oregon Ducks) and earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology in 1974. He went into practice shortly after, gradually making his way to becoming the Executive Director of the California Psychological Association in 1994, which transitioned him into a career in association management. Michael was a fellow of the American Psychological Association and a Certified Association Executive (CAE), as well as a life member of ICA.
Michael’s family held private services in January. We will have many opportunities these next months to remember Michael’s contributions to ICA, and there will be an evening memorial in Michael’s honor at the Annual Conference in May coordinated by ICA Past Presidents Cynthia Stohl and Barbie Zelizer.
Michael is survived by his husband Edward, his sister Beth, his niece Kimberly, his stepdaughters, Nicole and Amanda, and thousands of communication scholars, martinis in hand, smiling and talking at a joyous ICA conference. ICA’s humorous video dedication to Michael on the occasion of his 2016 retirement can be viewed here.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to GreySave, a Greyhound rescue about which Michael cared deeply.