Kathy Leitgeb is retiring as Executive Director of the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association. Her final day will be in a few weeks, and a dinner in her honor was held Thursday night.

“It amazes me how time flies by,” said John LaSpina, a past president of the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America and long active in the NYSBPA. “It was only yesterday when we hired George Burton’s assistant to take his place; that was 1985, eleven years after he hired her.”

Added LaSpina in a Facebook post: “Who in this day and age can claim to having only one employer? All of us at NYSBPA are better for it.”

On Feb. 7, Leitgeb received the George C. Burton Award from the Empire State Society of Association Executives for her exemplary performance over her 45-year career with the NYSBPA.

The ESSAE encourages high professional standards in the management of voluntary trade and professional organizations. Its membership comprises more than 475 individuals in New York. The ESSAE is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It was founded five years after Leitgeb began her career with the NYSBPA.

“Kathy and I go way back,” said Bill Duff, Executive director of the Illinois State BPA. “She and I had similar experiences — working for long-time E.D.s before we were hired, in my case with Pat Bosco. She helped me a lot with the transition, the workload, and understanding the dynamics of the membership.”

After the BPAA’s National Family Tournament was retired, Duff said he and Leitgeb were determined to continue conducting an adult/youth event at the state level, and discussed various format possibilities that might make sense for their associations.

“We would talk about stuff like that all the time,” he said. “She always told me I could always pick up the phone to pick her brain. Most people would call it brainstorming. We called it brain-picking.”

Although the NYSBPA will continue to have a lobbyist in the state capital of Albany, management of the association will be transferred to the BPAA.

“I know they will do a great job with it,” LaSpina said, “but it’s hard to fathom the association without Kathy. She went to work everyday worry about us [proprietors], and she did it selflessly, even while she was battling cancer.”

Leitgeb was a trailblazer for women in management positions, breaking through bowling’s glass ceiling long before most others.

“Think back to 1985, and tell me how many female E.D.s there were,” LaSpina said. “She was going to be a school teacher, so she had an affinity for seminars and what was relevant to the workplace at the time.”

In a post directed to Leitgeb on LaSpina’s Facebook page, John Caprise Sr., whose family operated bowling centers in New York through three generations, said, “Words cannot explain my deep appreciation for the years we worked together. You are a consummate professional. I wish you all the best in your retirement.”

Those are words being echoed throughout the New York bowling community and beyond.

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