Read Previous Spotlights and Interviews

Meet your colleagues who are fueling the future of the club industry by helping to fund scholarships and grants or by tapping into the resources The Club Foundation provides. We are spotlighting those individuals who benefit from the scholarship opportunities, those who contribute to the Foundation regularly, and the many who do both.

Meet TJ!

We recently had the privilege of talking with CMAA member Cheikhou (“TJ”) Tidiane Diagne, who serves as the General Manager at The Springhaven Club in Wallingford, PA.
Originally from Senegal, West Africa, TJ has worked in the club industry for more than 30 years. Prior to his current post, he worked at the Greenwich Country Club in Greenwich, CT as Assistant General Manager, Tokeneke Club in Darien, as General Manager, and Woodway Country Club in Darien, CT, where, for 15 years, he served as their Beach Club Manager and Assistant General Manager.
TJ has a warm, inviting, and caring presence and currently serves as a member of The Club Foundation Board of Governors. He is an asset to The Foundation and the industry alike and carries multiple awards, including the West Africa Corps Company G Award from the US Marines Detachment and he holds an Ambassador Certificate of Achievements and Service Awards from the State Department, through the US Embassy in Senegal.
TJ holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management from Canisius College, Buffalo, NY. He is an avid participant in the local Philadelphia Chapter and Connecticut Club Managers Association (CCMA), where he served as President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Technology Chair, and Education Chair. TJ lives in Monroe CT with his wife Rama and two boys Youssef and Ibrahim.
TJ has an excellent work ethic. His mantra is: “This was excellent, but next time, we will do even better.” By all accounts, TJ serves as mentor and inspiration for his team as well as for us at The Club Foundation! And we love this photo of TJ playing Break the Bucket where the kids at his club were able to soak him multiple times.

Ava: What is your favorite thing about the work that you do?

TJ: I enjoy having fun with my team every day to make our members happy. The most important thing at work is dealing with various personalities and cultural beliefs, trying to understand them, and working with them to make The Springhaven Club brand the best on earth in our members’ eyes. The people I work with are awesome, and they are always super motivated. They inspire me daily. We learn from each other, and I am passionate about learning new things.

Ava: You received the Willmoore H. Kendall Scholarship in 2016. How has that scholarship helped you achieve your career goals?

TJ: The Willmoore H Kendall Scholarship helped me attend all the BMI classes and made me a better club general manager.

Ava: What is your favorite meal served at your club?

TJ: The Springhaven Snapper Soup, The Springhaven Crab Cakes, and many other staples that are a must have every day at Springhaven.

Ava: Why do you love working in the Club Industry and what brought you to the club industry?

TJ: Basketball and the US Marines contributed to my discovery and love of the Club world. As Captain of our college team, we were at practice one day in February 1983. Suddenly a van stopped. Eight U.S. Marines on their way to the U.S. Embassy got out and asked me if it was OK to play a friendly game with our team. I said, of course, and both teams had so much fun that day. At the end of the game, the Marines invited me to practice with them every Tuesday night at the American Club of Dakar. I met the Club’s GM on my first day of practice, and she asked me if I wanted to work at the Club. I kept saying no because of school and basketball until I joined the team during my summer break. I started as a busboy and worked my way up to become the first non-American GM.

Ava: What’s the best professional advice you’ve been given relative to the club industry?

TJ: Have fun at work and learn how to do everything within the club. Give it 100% effort. Leave a legacy.

Ava: Why should CMAA members donate to The Club Foundation?

TJ: I am excited to give back. Every Club Manager should donate to The Club Foundation. It is like investing in yourself. The CF is here to make us better, to help us with research, and to help us with the future of our industry. I will do anything in my power to help the CF. It is a great cause.

Ava: You give a recurring gift each month. Can you tell us why you choose to give this way?

TJ: This the best way to donate if you cannot write a big check. $100 recurring every month adds up at the end to a larger amount. I will do even more because it is a worthy cause that is very important to me

Ava: Club Managers often have little free time. When you get the time, what do you like to do?

TJ: I always find the time as I have an amazing team that supports me. I like to travel the world whenever I can to discover the cuisines of the world, experience, and learn from the various cultures. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, running marathons, playing golf, tennis, basketball, and soccer, reading, and helping the community.

Ava: Anything else you want to share with our readers?

TJ: I would like to challenge 1000 GMs around the country to be committed to donate a recuring 50.00 a month so that we can reach a campaign of $600,000 in a year, do the same with AGMs, and others to donate a recurring $10 - $25 a month.

Meet Millie!

Ava Spece, Director of Development of The Club Foundation, had the privilege of talking with CMAA member Millie Harper, CCM, who serves as Assistant General Manager at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh, NC. Millie discovered her passion for Clubs as a student member of the Texas Tech University chapter of CMAA. She spent 8 years in Chicago at elite clubs and then moved to North Carolina where she has worked her way up through the ranks of the industry for the past 10 years. She has been involved in the profession for the last 20 years and has worked hard during that time to take advantage of networking and educational opportunities through CMAA, receiving her CCM in 2014. She is passionate about mentoring others and loves being a part of the CMAA family. Ava met Millie for the first time when she volunteered to serve as one of the members of the Scholarship Task Force for The Club Foundation:
Millie Harper

Ava: What is your favorite thing about the work that you do?

Millie: Idea generation is one of my favorite “jobs” to do. If it isn’t creating an event for membership, it’s strategic planning for the future of our Club. It’s amazing to see a plan come together, whether a kids’ party or new building construction, it feels great to know you made something happen! And even better – there is always something new to be created in our business. Never a dull moment.

Ava: What scholarship(s) have you received from The Club Foundation and how have they helped you achieve your career goals?

Millie: I have received the Sally Burns Rambo scholarship three times. This scholarship has helped me in a number of ways. It certainly allowed me to complete the necessary class requirements for my CCM. But it also allowed me to meet life-long friends and build relationships in the process. There is nothing more valuable than being able to connect with these people, learn from their experiences and share your own with them.

Ava:  Can you tell us about your most memorable club member?

Millie: One of my favorite members in my career was Jim Pesoli. He was a board member at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights, Il. This was a special member who took the time to mentor me and help me grow as a young professional. Stricken with cancer for many years, he created Kids Fight Cancer, a non-profit in Chicago. He asked me to be part of this organization and I was proud to serve. We hosted many amazing fundraisers and events together. He and his huge Italian family were generous and fun! They were passionate and driven and brought me into the fold as one of their own. He really helped give me a sense of belonging in the community, which I had never really had before. He also gave me great advice during my professional transitions. He had a magical smile and never made an enemy. In fact, he and his wife attended my wedding and I still have their photo. He was one of the members I can truly call my friend.

Ava: What is your favorite meal served at your club?

Millie: I don’t care what anybody says – I love our Prime Rib and Roasted Brussels with Bacon.

Ava: What’s the best professional advice you’ve been given?

Millie: Times get tough. No doubt about it. In this business, once you get through each tough time or rough patch, if you don’t still love what you are doing, you need to find something else that fits. Life is too short to work this hard and be miserable.

Ava: Why is The Club Foundation mission important?

Millie: The Club Foundation is a crucial piece of a Club Manager’s growth. The Club Foundation literally fuels the “life cycle” of managers’ careers. The financial support offered by The Foundation is the only source for many managers in our industry. Many clubs simply cannot afford to cover the cost of their managerial team to attend conferences and participate in education required to further their careers. I know that without The Club Foundation, the CMAA education would be difficult for many. With their mission of support, managers learn, grow and help others do the same.

Ava: Why should CMAA members donate to The Club Foundation?

Millie: Without generous donations from our members, The Club Foundation cannot effectively support those that want to thrive in clubs. If we want the best talent, the strongest, and best-trained managers – we must contribute to their growth. Through The Club Foundation, our donations support the rising stars the industry needs. It is the right thing to do.
It may sound cliché, but I just wouldn’t be where I am without the support of The Club Foundation and other CMAA members. I love serving our industry and I will continue to donate in any way I can, in the hopes it will help others as much as it has helped me.