When USEA CEO Jo Whitehouse, who recently announced that she is retiring at the end of the year, was told by President Diane Pitts that she and former president Kevin Baumgardner would be in town on Thursday, June 18th, and planned to stop by the USEA office to “discuss the AEC” little did she know what was really afoot. The notion of conducting USEA business was just a ruse and instead Pitts and Baumgardner came bearing some electrifying news: Whitehouse has been elected to the USEA Hall of Fame and will be inducted into that august body at the USEA Annual Meeting in December. The other inductees are:
Dick and Vita Thompson
Margaret Lindsley Warden
Whitehouse’s reaction is well-captured in the accompanying photograph. “I am overawed and astounded. Since the first Hall of Fame in 1999, I have been writing the biographies for the superstars and the heroes of our sport and have been so humbled by what they have achieved in their lives. I never thought that I would one day be considered worthy of receiving this honor myself and I cannot adequately express how I feel except to say a heartfelt thank you to those who have put such faith in me.”
An explanation of the background for this surprise announcement is in order. When Whitehouse earlier this year revealed that she intended to retire at the end of 2015, the Hall of Fame class had already been selected. Knowing that it was a foregone conclusion that Whitehouse—whose steady leadership and tremendous personal grace have seen the association through many a crisis, and who has seen the sport of Eventing grow exponentially during her tenure—would eventually land into the Hall of Fame, an ad hoc committee of former USEA presidents (along with the current president, Diane Pitts) sprang into action. This group which included Baumgardner, Kyra King Stuart, Brian Sabo, Loris Henry, King Penniman and Mike Huber, is uniquely positioned to recognize the extraordinary contribution Whitehouse has made to the association and to American Eventing. “She is an absolute treasure,” said Pitts. The “committee of presidents” immediately nominated Whitehouse to be added to this year’s Hall of Fame class.
The Hall of Fame Nominating Committee enthusiastically agreed, and the addition of Whitehouse was unanimously (and secretly) approved by the USEA Board of Governors last month. It was left to Pitts and Baumgardner to travel to Leesburg and spring the surprise on Whitehouse complete with a celebratory dinner followed the next day by a staff pizza party. Congratulations Jo, this honor is richly deserved.