Interview with Joyce Hager

Interview by Rob Kurek, AMA Communications Director

We recently sat down with Joyce Hager, AMA’s longest-tenured employee and asked her to reflect on her time working for the organization. She officially retires August 4, 2023. 

  1. What do you remember about your first day working for AMA? 

We were located in a one-bedroom apartment located at McPherson Square in Washington, D.C.   


  1. What was it like working in downtown Washington, D.C.?  

I loved it! There were parks nearby and plenty of places to eat and shop. There was easy access by bus and then the subway.  

  1. What did your friends and family think about you working for AMA?  

It was always a good talking point. People couldn’t believe there was an association for hobbyists who flew model airplanes.    


  1. Talk about some of the people you worked with in the early days

 When traveling to trade shows or the Nats, we had lots of volunteers. There were too many really to remember names, but two who stand out the most were Ron Morgan and Earl Witt. And I have to mention Dave Brown. He was AMA president at the time I was put in as interim executive director. But there were so many!  


  1. How many trade shows and events do you think you have attended?  

I would say 50 or more. The two biggest in their day was the Toledo Show in Ohio and the WRAM Show in White Plains, New York. You could hardly walk through the aisles. The members were friendly, and the vendors were great.  


  1. Do any of them stand out for any particular reason? 

 Toledo and White Plains were the shows to attend. The aisles were always crowded, and vendors were eager to show off their new products for the year.  


  1. What did you like most about working with members?  

It was sometimes challenging working with various personalities, but I enjoyed meeting the members and talking about what they did for a living, family, just general discussion, even airplanes. Working with the AMA Executive council was challenging at times. My favorite expression when I would get a call on Monday morning from one of the Executive Council members (mainly Dave Brown) was that I felt like I had 15 husbands and, depending on who it was, determined how far from my ear I had to hold the phone. Patience was the key.    


  1. Talk about some of the people you met along your AMA journey that stand out. 

Ron Morgan and Earl Witt were individual volunteers who I worked with at the Nats. I learned a lot about the organization, what (model airplanes) can fly together and what ones can’t. For rules and regulations, deadlines, and why they exist, John Worth was my greatest mentor. I was his assistant starting in the 1980s until we moved to Muncie, Indiana, from Reston, Virginia. Frank Ehling and Bob Underwood were great mentors too. Both served as technical directors and  were extremely knowledgeable about flying.    


  1. What advice would you give a new staff member?  

Learn as much as you can, and when opportunities open up, take them. You never know where it will lead you in your path at AMA or working elsewhere.  


  1. You’ve been working for AMA since your teens. What advice would you give your younger self? 

Always consider other opportunities within the organization. I had previously worked for a large department store and a collection agency, both very close to where I lived. I had a girlfriend who worked for AMA (Helen Edwards Costello) and she was the one who told me about an opening in the membership department, so I applied and got the job. The rest is history.  


  1. What do you think members expect most from their organization?  

Most members just want to fly their airplanes. I think that no matter what we do, many still look at us as an insurance company. I hope that changes someday. 


  1. What’s a life lesson that you’ve learned from a long, successful career? 

Boy, can the tides turn in a moment. Up until the move to Muncie, I primarily had one executive director: John Worth. Since being in Muncie, we have hired several and one served as an interim (Bob Underwood). Each person brings some expertise with them and in an instant can change the direction of the organization or how we were accustomed to operating, so express your views and be flexible.   


  1. What’s the best advice you’ve received? 

 I received so much good advice from people on the Executive Council throughout the years, and here in Muncie. Tom Harris from Ball State started mentoring (executive director) Jerry Rouillard and then me, other coworkers, and friends. People need to remember there is more than one way to do most tasks.  


  1. What are you going to miss most about AMA? 

The people, employees, members, and visitors and being right next door to the best model aviation flying site in the world.  


  1. What plans do you have for the future?  

Relax, get organized, and volunteer at the Joe Nall Fly-in. Since my partner is a modeler, model airplanes will continue to be a part of my life.  


  1. Joyce, congratulations and thank you.
    While we have never met, over the years you have offered assistance to me personally a few times mainly when I was active president of Brenham RC Airplane Club.
    It has been great to have someone as dedicated and helpful as you have been all these years..
    Thanks Again

  2. Joyce,
    Happy retirement! I don’t know of anyone or even heard of anyone working so long for one company. You must love the AMA! You must have helped thousands and thousands of members unbeknownst to you. We all appreciate your work behind the scenes to make sure things go smoothly.
    I hope to see you at Joe Nall. Looks like we can’t take the airplane out of the girl!

    -Mike Wong
    Senior AVP, District 2

  3. Neat… i remember attending the WRAM Show in White Plains in the early 70’s … very inspirational !

  4. Joyce,
    It has been nice working with you for the last several years. Enjoy retirement. We will see you in the greater Cincinnati area I’m sure.
    Randy Adams

  5. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement, Joyce and thank you for all your years of service to us AMA members.
    John Hackert
    Electric Powered Aeromodelers
    Scotia, NY

  6. Joyce, My comments are abuot the same asRick Stubblefield. We have never met but you’ve helped me while in my positin as President of the Barnyard Buzzards in Monroe, WA.
    Thank you for your sincere dedication and willingness to always help.
    Enjoy you’re next journey and Thanks again!
    Chet Blake

  7. Joyce, As ex-president of the defunct Ogdensburg NY Prop Busters I want to wish you the verry best for your future endeavors. Thank you for all the help through the years you so kindly provided me and the club. Your service was always prompt and helpful.
    May a clear path be laid before you!
    Joe Peccolo

  8. Joyce, As ex-president of the defunct Ogdensburg NY Prop Busters I want to wish you the verry best for your future endeavors. Thank you for all the help through the years you so kindly provided me and the club.
    May a clear path be always aid before you!
    Joe Peccolo

  9. Joyce, the years have showered favor on all of us that have had the amazing experience of having touched base with you on various matters over the years. I was fortunate to have been able to have your help during the John Worth era in Reston, Va. The Academy enjoyed tremendous growth during that era and you were an intricate part of it’s success along with John Worth.
    As the modeler/film maker for the Academy for at least 15-20 years past I knew that I could count on you to help with various issues that might need caring for.
    It will be an arduous task for your successor to live up to the standards that you have set.
    I wish you happiness and fun in your retirement and someday I hope I get the chance to say Hi, and wish you well in person.
    Jay Gerber L48
    HOF, Fellow

  10. Joyce,
    We have met! Abe VanDover talked about how much you helped him and always said to call you if we needed help. He was right! You have helped us on several occasions. We talked at the last Joe Nall this spring. We love being retired and just have fun every day. Enjoy this new adventure.

  11. Joyce, I have known you for 20 years and worked with you for 10 or more when I was on Council. You were always the go to person when we needed to know information. You have had a tremendous impact on so many people and are loved by all that know you. Enjoy this next stage of your life. You have certainly earned it. Hope to see you at Nall!

  12. Joyce,
    Thank you for your years of service. I always felt that other elected leaders could come and go, but as permanent staff you were the bedrock of the organization. Even filling in where sometimes there was no one else. Enjoy the new direction your life is taking!

    Dave Hull

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