‹ Back to News Page

Remembering Laurie McCartney

February 16, 2023

As we celebrate the life of our dear friend, mentor and colleague Laurie McCartney, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 55 on Monday, February 6th, we wanted to reflect on her deep impact on our organization and share more about her life and successes inside and outside of Ascend Learning.

Laurie joined Ascend Learning in 2016 and was President of our Fitness & Wellness segment, where she provided visionary leadership for the teams at the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and Club Connect.  Powered by Laurie’s innovative and creative business strategies, these brands have significantly expanded on their mission to prepare today’s fitness and wellness professionals for successful careers.

Laurie was a devoted mother of two, an experienced entrepreneur, and an accomplished business leader. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she was also a student athlete as part of the field hockey team. She then went on to earn her MBA from The Harvard Business School. Earlier in her career, Laurie led strategic marketing and operational efforts for major brands, including the Walt Disney Company, Teleflora, POM Wonderful, Stila Cosmetics, YogaWorks, and Forever 21. She was also the founder, chairman and CEO of her own company, babystyle.

The youngest of seven children, Laurie was inspired by her father, a lifelong athlete, to appreciate the transformational power of fitness, and she loved knowing that through her hard work and the tireless efforts of her team, the world could be a healthier and happier place.

As President of our Fitness & Wellness segment, Laurie quickly identified innovative ways to support our community with new programs and resources, and she led her team to accomplish a remarkable list of achievements, including:

  • Launch of Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM’s most successful specialization
  • Launch of Virtual Coaching Specialization, which helped thousands of fitness professionals transition to virtual training during the pandemic
  • Launch of Certified Wellness Coach, NASM’s first entry into the Wellness space
  • Growth of NASM’s annual Optima conference, which brings together SMEs and learners in the fitness industry to advance the profession. The 2021 event welcomed more than 10,000 attendees from across the industry, and the 2020 event was recognized with a Gold Stevie┬« Award for Best Educational Event at the 18th Annual International Business Awards┬«.
  • Acquisition of Club Connect, firmly establishing F&W with the leading education platform in gyms and health clubs and in the B2B wellness space
  • Acquisition of PTontheNet, expanding NASM’s reach as the gold standard in Personal Training
  • Buildout of the state-of-the-art F&W offices and gym in Gilbert, AZ
  • Back-to-back recognitions as a Best Place to Work in Phoenix, and back-to-back wins of the Healthiest Employers in Phoenix

Laurie was very proud of her team and in recent weeks she was particularly excited about NASM’s record-breaking performance in January, which was the biggest month in company history.  

Outside of Ascend, Laurie also served as a leader in the industry as a member of the IHRSA Industry Partner Advisory Council, partnering with other leaders to grow, protect and promote the health and fitness industry. She also served as a member of the Forbes Business Council, the foremost growth and networking organization for successful business owners and leaders worldwide.

On Thursday, February 23, Ascend Learning will hold a special celebration of Laurie’s life across our company to honor her legacy of leadership. Laurie’s kindness, stewardship, and friendship are truly irreplaceable, and the entire Ascend Learning community will continue to honor her memory in everything we do moving forward. Laurie’s obituary can also be read online here.