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Back in 2004, TravelAge West went through a major redesign and a pretty significant update in our editorial focus By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

Back in 2004, TravelAge West went through a major redesign and a pretty significant update in our editorial focus. As part of that change, we planned to do longer profiles of industry leaders and top suppliers. We wanted our first one to be a profile of a person who was universally respected, who had a major impact on the travel industry and who was a strong advocate of travel agents. It was a tough order to fill.

Luckily, one name came to mind - Michelle Morgan, president of Signature Travel Network. As always, Morgan was happy to help, and I got to learn firsthand just how gracious and generous a person she was.

I immediately recalled this experience with Morgan when I heard the horrible news last week that she had passed away due to complications related to a bone marrow transplant after a long battle with cancer.

Since that first profile story nearly a decade ago, I met with Morgan a number of times. She was smart, dedicated and down to earth. Travel agents adored her. I was always amazed at how many of them would mention Morgan’s name when they discussed the benefits of being a Signature member. I know that a good part of the respect she received from agents was due to her unfailing loyalty to them and her desire to see all travel agents succeed.

Because of these qualities, in 2012, Morgan was the first-ever recipient of the TravelAge West Excellence in Leadership Award, which is now given annually to a person who has had a major impact on the tourism industry, especially in the West. We presented the award to Morgan at our WAVE Awards Gala, and she received a standing ovation from the 250 industry leaders in attendance. It gave me goose bumps at the time, and I’m sure it will be a moment that I never forget.

Since Morgan’s death, I have received numerous emails praising her. If there is any consolation in her passing, it’s comforting to know that she surrounded herself with great people and left Signature in good hands. The best tribute to Morgan will be watching the organization she created continue to grow and continue to help travel agents. That’s certainly a fitting legacy.

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